INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.



 

Colleen SkatesColleen Skates is the executive director of Bootstraps Scholarships and Loans. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter and learn more at www.bootstrapsinc.org.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
Bootstraps provides scholarships and interest-free loans to graduating high school seniors in Conifer and Evergreen. Scholarships and loans can be used for any type of accredited post-secondary education. We also help our recipients navigate the often confusing road to financial aid.

Most of our scholarships are for one year and range from $500 to $6,000. Loans are renewable for up to a total of five years. All scholarships and loans are funded by donations from businesses and individuals in the community. Loan repayments are “recycled” into future loans.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
All families want a better life for their children. Having a college degree or some type of further education is fundamental to getting ahead in today’s world. Though numerous students qualify for financial aid, many families are still hard pressed to keep up with the ever-increasing financial burden of sending their children to college. Bootstraps assists families in alleviating some of this financial burden.

Our mission is to eliminate financial barriers to higher education for students of the mountain area. No one should be denied their educational dreams for lack of money.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Since 1945, with the support of the mountain community, Bootstraps has helped more than 1,500 local students pursue continuing education by awarding upwards of $3.5 million in scholarships and loans. Many of the young adults to whom we extend a hand-up would not be able to attend college without our assistance. By helping students achieve their educational goals, Bootstraps is providing them with a means to make a difference in the world.

Just the other day, I received a call from a young woman who was awarded a scholarship from Bootstraps for college this coming fall. Unfortunately, even with her scholarship and other financial aid, she was short about $5,000 for tuition and would be unable to enroll at CSU for the upcoming semester. The board of directors decided to give her an interest-free loan; we made a huge difference in her life, one that she will never forget. We’re sure she will go on to make a difference for someone else in the future.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
Knowing we’ve made a difference in the life of a soon-to-be college student inspires me and the Bootstraps Board of Directors to continue our work. The people we serve are determined to receive an education and aren’t going to let a little thing like money get in the way.

Melissa, a 2017 recipient, comes from a great family, but they have absolutely no money to help her attend college. With help from a generous Bootstraps donor, she plans to become a teacher so she can share her love for learning with children and encourage them to do the same.

It’s the Melissas who inspire me – young people who have a passion to change the world and will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
My big dream for Bootstraps is to provide more multi-year scholarships. If a student has financial need in his freshman year of college, chances are slim his parents will win the lottery any time soon and he will still have financial need for the remaining three years of college. Whether it be through scholarships or interest-free loans, I’d like to be able to offer full funding for college or vocational expenses to any financially needy student.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
We need additional donors who are passionate about our mission – eliminating financial barriers to higher education. Not only do we need their funding, we need them to tell their peers about the importance of access to higher education for all. As BB King once said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Evergreen and Conifer are viewed as wealthy areas, even by the residents. Our challenge is convincing people that not everyone in our community has the financial resources to attend college. Many of our recipients are from single-parent households with the other parent providing no monetary support. Every year at least one of our recipients is homeless. If the community doesn’t see the problem, they won’t offer a solution. It’s the job of Bootstraps to tell the stories of those we serve so the community will realize the issue and want to do something about it.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Play well with others. You have to be able to work with all types of personalities and understand their motivation. If you can’t get along with them, you won’t get much accomplished.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
We can always use money! Donation information is found on our website. Volunteers are always needed to help with fundraising events. If someone is interested in being added to our volunteer list, they should email me at colleen@bootstrapsinc.org.

 


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