Montrose students who want to go to college, but don’t necessarily have the means or resources, have a chance to significantly offset the costs associated with attending a university.

That’s after the Chang Chavkin Scholars Program, which awards recipients $60,000 and support throughout the recipients’ college careers, added Montrose High School students to the list of those allowed to apply, making it the sixth, along with Ouray High School, Ridgway Secondary, Telluride High School, Telluride Mountain School, Nucla High School and Norwood High School.

Schools in other Western Slope towns, like Durango, were in the running, but Valene Baskfield, director for the Chang Chavkin program, said Montrose had the means to connect the program with the right students and to help students through the application process.

Baskfield was at MHS Friday during lunch to make Montrose students aware of the program and show them how to apply for the program.

The main criteria are that the applicant is first-generation, meaning neither parent has a four-year degree, and that the student is in need and is high achieving, although Baskfield admitted “need” is not the same for everyone.

She said someone who has parents with decent income, but wants to attend Stanford, which has a tuition of more than $40,000 per year, might still be eligible for the scholars program.

Laura Chang and Arnie Chavkin started the program due to the lack of resources in rural Colorado, and specifically on the Western Slope.

“Local rural access to college is a big deal, and there aren’t many resources here like there are in urban areas,” Baskfield said, adding that the goal is to help the program’s scholars get through college “as debt-free as possible.”

The goal is to connect high-achieving students with the university that is the best fit for that student. Some previous recipients have attended schools like Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Others have gone on to bigger schools, like Cornell.

Baskfield said the scholarship helps students to achieve their goals and avoid settling on a university they may not want to attend. That’s been the best part, is opening doors where there weren’t open doors before,” she said.

Applicants must fill out an application, then go through an interview process to be selected, and there are four selected each year. A Montrose student won’t likely be chosen every year, and there is no quota for how many students at a given school will receive a scholarship.

The 2020 recipients, for instance were comprised of one Ouray High School student, one Norwood student and one Nucla student.

High school juniors are eligible to apply. The program, along with providing the scholarship money, also helps students choose the right college and helps connect them to needed resources throughout their college careers.

Baskfield said the program keeps in touch with its scholars until graduation and attempts to fill students’ needs on an individual basis.

Justin Tubbs is the Montrose Daily Press managing editor. 

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