Volunteer helps high-schoolers get cash for college | PostIndependent.com

Volunteer helps high-schoolers get cash for college

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

For Pat Hansen, volunteerism means helping kids envision their futures in college. Hansen spends about 20 hours each week helping Glenwood Springs High School students find scholarship money for college as part of the school’s Futures Program. Hansen and several other volunteers periodically publish a “green sheet,” which lists many available local and national scholarships and how to apply. The school year’s final green sheet was published Friday. It’s a time-intensive job, but the mother of three loves working with kids and helping them reach for their dreams. With two of her kids at Colorado State University and another in graduate school, Hansen knows first hand the challenges of finding money for a college education. She started volunteering at GSHS seven years ago when her oldest son was a senior at the school. “I did it to educate myself,” she said, adding, “It’s important for parents to know how to assist and to know what the requirements (are) to get into college and the processes for applying for aid.”

A retired surgical nurse, Hansen and her husband Gary own Blue Sky Adventures and partly own Glenwood Canyon Rafting, both Glenwood Springs-based rafting companies. Her youngest son graduated two years ago, but “I just kept on the last two years because it’s a really important program.””I like the kids,” she said. “That was my main motivation. It keeps you young.”What’s more, she said, since her kids took advantage of the local scholarship money, “we need to give back to the community for any of the monies my children received.”Hansen said she estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the school’s seniors take advantage of the program and the money available through scholarships. “The secret is getting them in here early,” she said. That’s why she works hard to inform parents and students that it’s best to think about how they’re going to pay – and apply – for college early in a student’s senior year in high school.

Many scholarships are need-based, which could mean that for many GSHS students, it may be difficult to get such scholarships and especially federal loans. While many families’ income exceeds the federal definition for financial need, the cost of living in the Roaring Fork Valley puts those families in the same financial straits as people who make much less in other parts of the country. “It may not look like you’re in financial need,” she said, but the cost of living tends to mask that. Of course, there are many scholarships out there that are merit-based, she said, including many minority scholarships.

But the bottom line for students a little confused or unsure about how to get the money they need for college is that the Futures Program, with Hansen’s help, is a “great source to get things started,” she said. “Our goal is to help as many kids as we can,” she said. Hansen has another message about volunteering: Just being part of the school system – just being present to help kids – makes a huge difference, she said. If parents made the time to be more involved in their children’s education and local schools, “it would transform the entire school system.” Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520bmagill@postindependent.com

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