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Telluride Academy launches 42nd year of summer programming – The Daily Planet

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Updated: June 21, 2022 @ 12:47 pm
Staff training for more than 50 Telluride Academy instructors and interns took place May 31 to June 4. While the academy searches for a new executive director, summer programming is set. (Courtesy photo)

Staff training for more than 50 Telluride Academy instructors and interns took place May 31 to June 4. While the academy searches for a new executive director, summer programming is set. (Courtesy photo)

One hundred eager campers gathered for the first week Telluride Academy at the Telluride Middle/High School last week, marking the nonprofit’s 42nd year of summer programming. While its core mission remains “to inspire children and teens through experiential education that promotes physical activity, creative learning, environmental stewardship, responsibility to others and positive life choices,” the academy has been operating without an executive director since former director Luke Brown resigned over the winter. Consequently, the academy board announced earlier this month that they have launched an official search for a new executive director.
“After 18 years, Luke departed to pursue other passions and new opportunities,” board member and treasurer Alexandra Steiner explained. “That’s an exceptional amount of time to spend with one organization, and his contributions and passion for the outdoors were pivotal.”
Primary responsibilities for the position include directing staff, developing and implementing a strategic plan, fundraising, writing grants, and serving as academy spokesperson to the community and media.
Since February, finance director Larry Rosen has served as interim executive director for the third time in his 25 years of working for the academy.
“While we’re in the transition of searching for the next executive director, we’ve been shown throughout this process that our team — Larry, Sophie and Sonja — rose to the occasion and we’re able to cover our immediate gaps to ensure we’re going to have an amazing summer of programming,” Steiner added.
With professional assistance from Jennifer Bassignani of Essential Operations HR out of Durango, the board hopes to land a new executive director this summer or early fall.
“There’s great local talent in Telluride so we’re starting our search here first and will expand as necessary,” board president Allison Templin said.
Led by program director Sophie Fabrizio and field director Brian Meyer, staff training for more than 50 instructors and interns took place May 31 to June 4, comprising curriculum and program planning, safety talks, and van readiness, with a half-day spent training at Priest Lake, followed by an overnight at McPhee Reservoir.
“We overcame the hiring challenges we were facing in February by piecing together staff housing,” Rosen explained.
“We’ve got some staff living out in Rico, and the boarding house came through with four rooms, which was a game-changer,” communications and enrollment director Sonja Ames added. “We’re grateful to the people from Telluride and Mountain Village who reached out with rooms for rent.”
There are also 10 staff members living at the Leopard Creek property, which the academy acquired last year with the goal of staff retention. The academy hopes to increase housing capacity on that property in coming years.
While the academy will follow county COVID protocols this summer, campers are currently allowed to be indoors and ride in vans without masks, and four campers are once again allowed to share a tent. While most camps are filling up, there’s still availability in programs through the summer. The majority of camps are scheduled to run in July with the busiest week following the Fourth of July holiday.
Annually the academy strives to fill 40 percent of all programs with local campers, a number they will likely exceed this year. Rosen pointed out a recent trend where fewer kids are enrolling in more camps, especially among visiting families, many of whom come for the whole summer and book their kids for the entire time they’re here.
“Local participation this summer is awesome,” he said. “So far we have 263 local kids signed up, 230 of them have taken various discounts we’ve offered. We want to make camp accessible to locals, particularly to kids who wouldn’t otherwise attend without financial support.”
Every year the academy aims to give away 20 percent of total tuition in assistance. So far this year, $234,000 in tuition assistance has been distributed, more than any other year. With the help of school district outreach liaison Ericka De Maquera, Rosen reported that $50,000 of this year’s assistance has gone to directly support 28 local Latinx campers, which is more than double the amount allotted in recent years.
This year the academy is working with The Wright Stuff Foundation to bring two camps to Norwood to serve families across the San Miguel Watershed with expenses for 24 campers subsidized by the Chason Russell Memorial Fund.
In the absence of an executive director, the academy board will lead fundraising and networking efforts this summer to ensure continued scholarship funding and fortify the academy’s capital campaign to pay off the mortgage on the Leopard Creek property. To that end, a free summer friend-maker celebration, scheduled for July 20 at the Transfer Warehouse, will feature music, food, drinks and dancing.
“The celebration is a way to give a big thank you to the people who’ve already given to our capital campaign,” Rosen said. “We’ve raised over $193,000 with an additional $107,000 in pledges towards our $815,000 goal, which we’d like to wrap by the end of summer 2024.”
For more information on the executive director position or to register for camps, go to tellurideacademy.org.
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