Our Mentors

Guiding students to new opportunities.

Paula Stepp

“Mentoring 12 students for six years as they make a journey through middle school and high school seems like a big task until you’re in the midst of it. Soon you become engaged with each student, and spend a lot of time thinking and planning on what you can do to help them plan a course to what happens after high school. In seventh grade, it seems like a distant goal, but each year you build from the past year. Before you know it, we are talking about the best class schedules in high school, developing their passions into community participation, getting to college fairs and planning for college visits.

I started with the Re-1 PreCollegiate program in 2006, and I was excited to see success come to each student. Four or five years after high school graduation, those young adults graduated with their undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees. It didn’t take long for me to understand I was ready to start with a new group.

Right now, I am in my fourth year with my second group. I know these last three years will speed by for this group as they rush to put the pieces in place they need to continue their education beyond high school. I will do what I can to continue to encourage them to take a bigger world view for themselves, their communities and for their futures.”

John Burg

“I thoroughly enjoy my meetings with my wonderful pre-collegiate students. I learn more than I impart.”

Jessica Lorah

“The two best days of my month are those that I meet with my pre-collegiate group. As we laugh, learn, and explore together, I am impressed by the insight, tenacity, and kindness displayed over and over by these kids. Being a Mentor means as much to me as it does to my team; I can’t think of a better way to contribute to their success.”

Craig Farnum

PreCollegiate Mentor for the Class of 2018

“The Roaring Fork Pre-Collegiate program creates a caring and consistent mentor relationship for first generation students who have the desire to attend college.When students graduate from the RF Pre-Collegiate program and show up at our college doorstep, they are prepared academically, personally, and socially at the highest levels.”

Milton "Tony" Mendez

PreCollegiate Class of 2009, PreCollegiate Mentor for the Class of 2016

“The PreCollegiate Program has taught me the amount of support the community offers to first generation, college bound, high school students. At one point, I was one of those students. Giving back to the program as a mentor has given me the opportunity to help current high school students prepare for college and give them the tools necessary to succeed after high school.”

Dirk Fleischman

Dirk is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Dentistry at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, and lives in Carbondale with his family. He is the mentor for the Class of 2017 at Glenwood Springs High School. When asked what he likes most about mentoring, Dirk said:

“Giving guidance to my students but not giving them the answers. They need to work through situations on their own in order to grow. Knowing that what I am doing makes a real difference, and that I am leaving my students in a better place emotionally and educationally than when they started.”

Thomas van Straaten

by Christian Bergren-Aragon, Post Independent

Erma Bombeck once said, “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain love for one another.” Thomas van Straaten, an avid volunteer, is one of those unselfish people who seem to better our world everyday with his love, patience, and compassion. Straaten is a newly named mentor to eighth grade students at Basalt Middle School. He has paired with the Pre-Collegiate Program (PCP) to educate, train, and prepare students for college and post-academic life.

The Pre-Collegiate Program’s main goal is to develop relationships, promote healthy decisions, and ultimately guide students down the collegiate path. “100% of the kids enrolled in the program, past and present, have gone to college, including two young ladies that were pregnant,” Pre-Collegiate Director Adriana Ayala-Hire said. The PCP has thrived in this valley for more than three years and is offered to students whose parents have either not attended college or did not complete college.

Nova Sprick

by Mariah Martin, Post Independent

Sprick an inspiration to college-bound students

Inspiration comes in many forms. Pre-Collegiate mentor Nova Sprick is one of them. Sprick is a yoga instructor, mentor and cancer survivor. Not many people can claim to be all three.

Sprick has worked as a Pre-Collegiate mentor for only a little more than a year. She started last January, but has already made an impact on the seven girls with whom she works. None of the girls’ mentors stuck around for long because the group was shy. This was perfect for Sprick because she was shy in high school so she relates to the girls.

Sprick works with the girls every other week and then also individually in-between meetings. “My job as a mentor is to introduce (the girls) to wide varieties of jobs, and also to be another adult support outside the family,” Sprick said.

Bob Johnson

by Anna Holley, Post Independent

This man is the epitome of human decency and selflessness. Characteristics that few possess. One man who possesses such qualities is Bob Johnson. Johnson is a Pre-Collegiate mentor for whom one good deed isn’t enough.

“He has really helped me to find my way through a sea of tests and paperwork…he helps me see what I need to get to where I want to go,” a junior at GSHS Abril Loya said:

The Pre-Collegiate program is offered to students, who either had parents go to college in a different country, or are the first generation in their family to go to and complete college. “Pre-Collegiate is such an important endeavor, it gives kids a chance to better educate themselves, which is critical especially in the job market like today’s,” Loya said.

“Bob is really great, he always is willing to listen and he helps in any way he can,” Loya said. Loya has been in the program since she was a freshman because her parents did not go to college in this country.

Mark Spidell

by Drew Halsch, Post Independent

After a long day at work, most people would go home to relax; however, for Mark Spidell, a commercial lending advisor at U.S. Bank, the day doesn’t just revolve around his work. On top of his full work load, he is a pre-collegiate mentor for the Roaring Fork School District Re-1.

Mark Spidell was born in Greeley, Colo., and moved throughout his childhood from Kansas City to a small town in Oklahoma. He finally moved back to Colorado to finish his high school career. He then moved on to the University of Denver, where he received his degree in business and marketing.

After his schooling, he moved to Chicago, Ill., to work for a consulting company. Spidell eventually made his way back to Colorado, but didn’t move to Glenwood Springs until 2006. He then started his career at U.S. Bank.

Bonnie Cretti

by Connor McRaith, Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Cretti a ‘guardian of education’

College is an experience that many students around the world never have the opportunity to take a swing at. But here in the Roaring Fork Valley students have the chance to actually hit that ball when it comes and be prepared for the big leagues. This preparation takes place through a program called Pre-Collegiate.

To ready the students, mentors from around the valley volunteer their time each week to discuss issues with their mentees. These volunteers range from your average, working-class citizen to retired veterans, but all of them have the same goal: to prepare students and send them off to college.

Sue Edelstein and Bill Spence

What did you enjoy most about Mentoring for PreCollegiate?

Everything. Getting to know the kids. Being current (how else would I have known what Hunger Games was?). Crossing the socioeconomic divide and getting to know Latino families in Carbondale, and welcoming each other into our homes. Sharing our life experiences in a way that can open minds and doors of teens.

Bill Spence: We began with 10 shy, uncertain 7th graders and have watched them progress until, now in their senior year we’ve seen the sparks of nearly all wanting to go to college and to have productive lives of their own. Several have exceeded their wildest expectations and seeing their realizations of this is simply a wonderful experience as a mentor.

Sue Edelstein: Making a difference – of all the nonprofits I’ve been involved with over the years, this is the first where I KNOW that I have made a difference. There is nothing theoretical about it!