Copper Mountain hosts Leadville students for a career day |

Copper Mountain hosts Leadville students for a career day

Some of the 26 students had never visited the resort before

Leadville is about 24 miles from Copper Mountain, but for some students living in the region, it feels like it’s worlds away. That’s why Lauren Bissonnette, program coordinator for Lake County’s School to Work Alliance Program, decided to partner with the resort and host a career day for 25 students from Cloud City High School in order to expose them to possible careers in the ski industry.

Cloud City High School is an alternative high school based in Leadville that is a competency-based instead of credit-based program. The school is an “alternative education campus,” meaning it is designed to serve high-risk student populations, according to the Colorado Department of Education’s website.

At least 90% of the school’s population are high-risk students who meet one or more of 15 possible conditions. Some of these students have dropped out of school or were expelled, have a history of drug or alcohol use, have a family history of domestic violence, have been held back from advancing to the next grade or are pregnant, a parent or homeless.

Though the school has been in existence for about 15 years, this is the first time it has operated in its own building. Bissonnette said there are currently 38 students who are enrolled at Cloud City. As part of the statewide School to Work Alliance Program, Bissonnette is responsible for supporting young adults who have physical, emotional or other barriers to employment.

“I support those young adults with career exploration. I help them with postsecondary and workforce readiness skills — self advocacy, employment skills, a little bit of everything,” Bissonnette said.

Bissonnette has been in this role for about two years, and in her first year, she was restricted in how she offered career exploratory services due to the virus. Now that the virus has less prominence in various communities, she plans to host outings where the students get to learn about employment opportunities both in Lake County and surrounding counties such as Summit. Visiting Copper Mountain was the group’s first career day.

“Many of our students here have grown up here, so they have ties and their families and so a lot of them want to stay,” Bissonnette said. “I think a lot of our young adults here — I would say the majority of the kids who went today — have never been to Copper. They might not ski, and I don’t think they realize all the opportunities that are available for them right down the road.”

On Thursday, April 14, 25 Cloud City students plus one recent graduate visited Copper Mountain and learned about some of the resort’s different departments. The students heard presentations about Copper Mountain’s slope maintenance, retail, rentals and marketing departments. They also got to go into one of the terminals to learn about lift maintenance, make a pizza in one of the resort’s commercial kitchens and tour the maintenance shop to learn about the machinery needed to keep the resort operating.

“It’s very hands-on, and that’s the coolest part, I think, is they really get that opportunity to get that hands-on experience, meet with the professionals that have been at Copper for a number of years and work in these departments,” said Taylor Prather, spokesperson for Copper Mountain. “It’s not just them sitting in a room listening to a presentation.”

Bissonnette said these kinds of outings go a long way in exposing the students to opportunities outside their experience.

“I love (Leadville). I chose to live here because I want to be here, but these kids, I want them to see what else is out in the world. I want them to be able to dream,” Bissonnette said.

The day seemed to be a success too. Bissonnette said that during lunch, she found one of the students already in the process of filling out an application to work at the resort.

“I’ve heard from other students who were like, ‘Wow, I can work here and do all these things that I didn’t know about,’” Bissonnette said. “I think that was a big ‘ah ha’ that the kids had.”

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