Every time Aspen High School graduation rolls along, I get a deep sense of pride. The schools, teachers and staff are among our town’s greatest assets. As a community we have a lot of time and emotion invested in our kids, so all you really want for them when they graduate is happiness, and a modicum of society’s definition of success. It makes me happiest when kids who grew up here end up living here, and are active participants in our community.
Graduating in the music tent is a memorable experience. I spent a lot of time as a kid on the grounds of the Aspen Institute and Aspen Meadows campus, as well as on the music tent roof. The architects had inadvertently designed an incredible terrain park for skateboarding and BMX bikes in their quest for aesthetic and acoustical perfection. We spent hours on end riding up and down the isles, and jumping bikes and skateboards off of the edge of the stage during both off-seasons.
The best part, though, was the roof of the music tent. Bauhaus architecture at its finest! The designers made what amounted to a v-shaped half pipe on the roof above the dressing rooms and staging areas, with a perfect access point from the side by stepping on a fan vent. From there we also had a perfect vantage point to see the mighty King Woodward zipping down Third Street in his immaculate red Jeep Wagoneer to chase us off. As fate would have it, I landed my first ever paycheck job in seventh grade working a summer job on the Aspen Institute conference crew — King, the man who I used to run away from, was now my boss.
Looking back on my crazy days at Aspen High School always makes me happy — like showing up to class wearing ski pants and no one even batting an eye. The older I get, the easier I find it to escape back the carefree days of my youth. At the time I thought it couldn’t get any better. Sometimes now I wonder. Of course it’s better now being grown up and responsible, right? All of the answers to life’s questions have finally been revealed, now that we’re grown up with graying hair and liver spots.
There’s something interesting happening in our town right now. There are a significant amount of kids born at Aspen valley Hospital being raised here, and hopefully graduating from Aspen High School. Technically that makes them more “local” than even their parents. That makes me hopeful that the positive future of our town is being secured. There was some concern a while back that all of the kids who grew up here moved away never to return. I’m not so sure, since I see people I graduated with at Aspen High every single day. They are still some of my best friends.
The question is, do we as a community have an obligation to encourage and provide for our kids who grow up here? I think the answer is yes indeed, and we already are doing a pretty darn good job of it. The key component is the employee housing program. Meanwhile though, there’s an entire segment of our community hell-bent on selling the town right out from under us and the kids growing up here.
There are a lot of kids who grew up here and moved away, and now they’re trying to break back into the old-Aspen way of life that they remember and cherish. I did it in the ’90s and it was brutal, especially with a toddler. At one point I was about to pull the trigger on a room for rent in the paper. I made an appointment to look at the room, and it was a large walk in closet — for $800 a month. I actually felt sad for the town I grew up in.
Is it going to be tough for the kids growing up here to get a foothold in town and put down roots if they want to? It may be tougher for some than others, but if I can do it, then anyone can.
The kids in our town are so cool. They have their own style. They are mountain kids. They experience things growing up here that others can’t, and it shapes them. They lack street-smarts, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The kids of Aspen are products of every single interaction they’ve had in our community over the course of their lifetime, no matter how small or how large. Remember that when you come into contact with the youth of our town.
So my advice to the graduating class of 2013 is to go out and see the world. Go to college and get those valuable life experiences. If you’re supposed to come back to Aspen and live you’ll know it in your heart. It’s not for everyone, but there is an obligation to give back on some level to the community that raised you. I have a feeling some local kids definitely belong here. Go Skiers!
To reach Lorenzo, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.