Charting Their Course

by Genevieve Villamizar

For ten summers, fifty inner-city kids have filled Colorado Rocky Mountain School classrooms with academic fervor, paddled waterways with new-found friends and climbed to their personal bests through all CRMS has to offer.

“CRMS programming uniquely combines academic, residential, and outdoor experiences to help young people challenge themselves to become the students and citizens they want to be,” says Chelsea Brundige, CRMS board president. “High School High Scholars is a program in the same spirit—supporting the passion and courage of underserved students who want to chart a course for themselves to a 4-year college degree.”

“The education gap,” she continues, “and the income gap in this country are problems that deserve all of our attention. The (HS)² summer program at CRMS is one of the very few precollegiate programs in the country that help underserved high school students enhance their academic skills and experiences in pursuit of their dreams for college. The success rate of our (HS)² graduates in securing a spot in a college of their choice and completing a 4-year college program is outstanding. That should make anyone feel good.”

In her role as CRMS college counselor, Betsy Bingham-Johns is intimately involved with each (HS)² student. “I help them understand the college application process and then walk them through the steps necessary to find appropriate schools and ultimately
apply to college. I intend to educate and encourage students to thoughtfully consider a range of colleges and then to provide them with the support and resources to help them make their college dreams come true.”

Program Director Cindy Blachly finds the 75 hours of counseling provided to each scholar critical. “One of the most common outcomes of insufficient college counseling is when students undermatch and apply only to schools close to home that they have heard of— rather than to the best schools they are qualified to attend. Students might not fully understand the financial aid process and pass over schools with high tuition costs, even though they would likely be eligible for full-ride scholarships.”

Bingham-Johns’s commitment is inspired in part by the sheer character of her scholars.

“Every year, I am incredibly impressed by our (HS)² students,” Bingham-Johns says. “Although the common thread is their extraordinary academic ability, they stand out because of their ability to embrace every opportunity while being willing to show vulnerability in sharing their personal stories. Admitted students to (HS)² are, above all else, brave individuals who are ready to challenge themselves academically, socially, and experientially in a new environment that is essentially foreign to them.”

“It is essential that we find ways to offer this experience to students of all economic and cultural backgrounds and help them reach their dreams,” declares Brundige.

“Many students arrive with little hope of attending college,” says Bingham-Johns, “and [they] end up attending a college beyond their wildest dreams with a generous financial-aid package. This outcome is especially rewarding.”

The 11th year of the (HS)2 program will kick off on June 23 when the third-year students arrive for a leadership seminar in advance of the full program starting on Monday, June 25.

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