Venerable literary organization’s work flows down the valley & into the schools

Aspen Words is Colorado’s oldest literary organization, established in 1976. Its purpose is to encourage writers, inspire readers and connect people through the power of stories. Founded as a small, grassroots writers’ conference, it became a part of the Aspen Institute in 2009. In the last decade, Aspen Words has made youth educational programs a major focus, along with several other flagship programs for writers and readers of all ages.

“Aspen Word’s greatest strength lies in the diversity of our programs and the communities that we serve,” says executive director Caroline Tory. “From the middle school student discovering poetry for the first time, to the emerging voice on the brink of a first publication, to the writer in search of solitude to complete a book, to the prize-winning novelist who inspires a room of readers – our programs provide mentorship and community for participants of all ages and backgrounds in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.”

Caroline adds that Alpine Bank has been one of the longest-running and most consistent sponsors for their Writers in the Schools program, which brings professional poets, writers and teaching artists into middle and high schools in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. 

“The program encourages students to develop a unique creative voice through creative writing, to recognize their own individual struggles through the eyes of others and to develop self-awareness through written forms of artistic expression,” says Caroline. “Through poetry workshops and spoken word performances, middle and high school-aged writers have grappled with tough issues such as body image, bullying and mental illness, while also writing about friendship, budding romance, or the feeling of finding one’s center.” 

The Aspen Words team cites consistent sponsor support as making it possible to expand the program beyond its original two-week timeframe, allowing for deepened exposure with students over the course of several weeks, rather than just a few sessions. 

“The success of the program hinges on both a robust partnership with teachers and administrators in the school districts, as well as our ability to attract the most talented teaching artists to conduct workshops and assemblies for students. Regular support ensures that we can continue to do this, year after year, while introducing even more students to writing and creative careers,” says Caroline. In 2022, for the first time, Aspen Words is bringing the project to Rifle High School. “Expansions like this are only possible thanks to the support of partners like Alpine Bank.”

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Alpine Bank Staff

Alpine Bank is an independent, employee-owned organization with headquarters in Glenwood Springs and banking offices across Colorado’s Western Slope, mountains and Front Range.

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