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Aspen's Blog

by Mallory Sussman, Development Manager

Friday, September 23, 2016

Welcome to Aspen Academy's newest blog series on development. Each week we will offer information on development strategies and best practices, share updates from Aspen Academy's development office, and discuss current trends, terms and tactics in philanthropy. At the conclusion of each blog post we will also include references and resources for continued learning.

As in any area of practice, development has a language of its very own. More than simply terminology, development language serves as both a utilitarian and theoretical tool to frame our discussions around giving, and can have a very significant impact on the outcome of our efforts. The language of giving is more than a glossary of vocabulary words; the language of giving holds a space - full of passion, possibility, and inspiration – to demonstrate commitment to a cause you care about.

Today, we will explore a few common terms: development, fundraising, solicitation and advancement, examining their distinctions and application here at Aspen Academy.

So what is development and how is different from fundraising?

While the two terms are often used interchangeably outside of a development office, they represent two uniquely intertwined concepts:

Development is relational in nature: we spend time getting to know Aspen families and students, learning about their desires for their education, their communities and their futures. We work with our faculty, staff and leadership to identify areas of need, opportunities for growth, and creative ways to channel our resources in support of Aspen Academy's mission. Our advancement staff works diligently to strengthen our transparency and communication around the outcomes and impact of our efforts. By igniting passions and inspiring loyalty amongst our community members, we successfully raise the funds necessary to serve our school today and prepare our students for tomorrow.

Solicitation, or asking a person to commit resources to an organization, is the bridge that connects development with fundraising. While development focuses on long term cultivation and stewardship, striving to create powerful and life-changing connections, fundraising enables our development team to seek contributions for near term goals. Fundraising typically centers on a specific event or cause and is transactional in nature. Fundraising is a key component of a successful development program. Family favorites like Grandparents and Special Friends Day and our annual Gala represent fundraising events and are critical components to our overall development strategy.

Here at Aspen development is an integral part of a larger effort: Advancement. Advancement is "the action of continually moving toward an institution's vision," and the goal of Aspen Academy's advancement office is to "build and sustain a financially secure future through managing enrollment, cultivating a culture of philanthropy, and practicing disciplined financial management that accounts for both internal and external economic drivers." Development, fundraising and solicitation are just a few of the mechanisms we utilize in pursuit of this goal.

If you are interested in learning more about Development or the other functions of our Advancement office: Admissions, and Marketing and Communications please feel free to reach out to:

  • Lara Knuettel, Director of Advancement
  • Steve Goslee, Admissions Manager
  • Mallory Sussman, Development Manager
  • Roberta Vallina, Marketing and Communications Manager

Additional readings on the language of giving:


by Nicole Kruse, 8th Grade Language Arts Instructor and AEI Coach

I had an opportunity to attend a few of the sessions at Denver Startup Week this week, and one in particular caught my attention: Successful Young Entrepreneurs: How to be one, How to raise one. This session included a panel of successful young entrepreneurs, including sophomores Sam Nassif and Oliver Greenwald, the inventors of the Drip Drop and sixth grader Jack from Jack's Stands. All three are local young men who have invented, created and developed successful business ideas. The panel also included parents of young entrepreneurs. All panelists shared their own experiences and expertise on the topic. Below are the pieces of advice that caught my attention:

1. Young entrepreneurs exhibit a profound curiosity and a voracious love of reading. The parents of young entrepreneurs noticed their children asked a lot of questions beginning at an early age. Their kids independently took toys apart and put them back together. Second, one mom shared that her child was a voracious reader. She went on to explain what many of us already know- that reading develops critical thinking- something you need as an entrepreneur. It's quite an interesting concept and it caught my attention, particularly because of my dual role at Aspen Academy- one as an entrepreneurial coach and the other as a language arts teacher.

2.Family time looks different. These families spend their time together watching business shows, like Shark Tank, and discussing business at the dinner table: ideas, successes, and stories. The conversations are authentic and meaningful. Problems are discussed, ideas are entertained, and the dialogue is real.

3.Young entrepreneurs need to have skin in the game. When a child has a business idea, some of the money that is invested needs to be their own, otherwise there's no real commitment on the child's part. Follow through, drive and dedication are important elements that an entrepreneur must have and when someone else is footing the entire bill, those characteristics can get lost.

4.Start early and say yes. The parents on the panel wish they would have helped their children by starting these discussions earlier in their child's life. They also encouraged other parents to say yes when your children have an idea. And remember, the next big thing can be simple- it doesn't have to be some grandiose idea.

5.Reach out to organizations that can help your children if it's outside of your realm. Let's be honest: we don't know everything and that's ok. The important thing is that we know where to look for help. Use your resources.

What's your advice for parents and young entrepreneurs? Do you have something to add to this list? Email me at:


by Nicole Kruse, 8th Grade Language Arts Instructor and AEI Coach

In the recent research I've done regarding financial literacy, I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of parents: the type that talk about money and finances with their children, and the type that doesn't. The parents that choose not to discuss money with their children have various reasons: adult finances are too personal, it will cause unnecessary stress on the child, and parents want to protect them and let them be children. These are all relevant reasons, but could this be doing more harm than good?

The United States is $19 trillion in debt. The average household is an estimated $130, 900 in debt, including credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and student loans. It's important to consider that not talking to our children about money isn't going to make our debt go away. In fact, it may add to the problem.

Children as young as preschool age can distinguish between wants and needs. If you haven't begun the conversation and your children are well past pre-school, rest assured that whenever you begin the conversation will be better than not talking about it at all. But begin the conversation. Start small. Wants and needs is something we all can understand and relate to. We live in a society that is surrounded by wants. Who isn't guilty of wanting that new phone even though the one we have is working just fine? So the next time your son or daughter say they want that new (insert item here), begin the conversation. There's no better time than now.

Thursday, March 24th
Lara Knuettel, Director of Advancement

Finding the right preschool for your child is an exciting step in your life as a parent. Regardless of the type of program you're looking for, there are several crucial factors to consider. While safety and academics will be key to your decision making, where your child attends preschool matters.

A Kindergarten student practices measuring!

The highest quality programs are designed to provide ample opportunities for your child to socialize, play, learn and express his or her individuality in a nurturing and accepting environment.

Here Are 5 Important Things to Look For:

Intentional Play
In the context of a warm and nurturing environment, children discover meaning through exploration, learning activities, and games that integrate many content areas into one thematic unit of study. Great early childhood programs also recognize the power of play and the need for young minds to create and imagine.

Reading Readiness
A Pre-K literacy program thrives on play and hands-on excitement! Children should be deeply engaged in a myriad of active and meaningful learning centers that create the perfect environment for profound and important learning. In order for children to reach their full reading potential, it is important for teachers to lay a strong foundation in the fundamental building blocks of pre-reading. Find a program that is rich in these skills and gives children the opportunity to practice and hone their understanding of early literacy on a daily basis is important.

Nurturing Teachers
Teachers open the doors to learning by preparing an environment that supports exploration and discovery as the building blocks of knowledge. Children should begin their journey of becoming active and engaged learners with confidence, curiosity and imagination. The expertise of the faculty should shine through as they inspire each student to explore, discover, take risks, and make choices.

Math Focus
Four- and five-year olds are becoming skilled organizers and untiring negotiators who appreciate fairness, reason and logic. Time should be spent exploring their wonderful ideas and making sense of the world around them. Projects should be driven by children's interests and inquiry and may involve an entire class or a small group. The curriculum should be designed to allow children to express their increasing confidence and independence, while meeting the challenge of their noisy curiosity, energy and endless enthusiasm.

Family partnerships
A positive social-emotional atmosphere created by a healthy, supportive community increases the ease with which all learning takes place. During the early childhood years, young children begin to develop their confidence and self-esteem. Communication should be open and ongoing. Families and teachers should work together as partners to facilitate your child's initial adjustment and continuing development. Communication between home and school is the key to every child's success.

Visit Aspen Academy's Preschool

If you are looking for a high-quality preschool for your child, we invite you to visit Aspen Academy in Greenwood Village, Colorado. We remain as committed as ever to our belief that the role of a preschool is to offer children opportunities to form lasting friendships and develop independence and confidence in their emerging social and academic abilities. Teachers at Aspen Academy provide foundational lessons that match the individual readiness of each child to ensure that they experience success every day.

Monday, March 7th
By Brittany Javor, Communications & Community Strength Coordinator

Based on a Supporting Our Young Readers At Home presentation given by Aspen Academy's Instructional Coach, Scott McFarland, 93% of students who read 20 minutes a day will be proficient readers by eighth grade. Reading is one of the hardest things to teach, and a lot of learning to read stems from home.

Here are some easy takeaways from Scott's presentation that can get your young reader interested in books:

A group of Junior Kindergarten students surrounds a parent volunteer in the library.

Get a Library Card
The library is a great place for your child to be surrounded by books while also seeing other adults modeling reading behavior.

Keep Books Everywhere At Home
The more kids are exposed to books at home, the better. Display books in your study, living room, on your kitchen table, and in your child's bedrooms.

Encourage your kids to create reading nooks serving as a fun place for them to explore books, and have reading lights available to make reading more accessible.

Read More Independently
As the primary role model for your child, the more you model reading to them, the more they will want to read.

Create a habit of reading 15-20 minutes a day. Not on your computer, but reading a physical book or magazine so your child can understand what you are doing.

Read With Your Child
This one is somewhat obvious, but equally important. Read 15-20 minutes today with your child. This can include looking at pictures together, pointing out what you both find interesting, looking at different characters, and what you think the story about.

Feel free to read the book to your child several times until your child feels comfortable trying to read with you.

Be patient.
Learning to read takes time. Be supportive, and enjoy each step towards that milestone.

What tips and tricks do you have for supporting your young reader? Comment below!

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