True North: The Sky’s the Limit


Photo courtesy of True North

True North participants help prep beds for next spring on Hastings Mesa.

Nick Denesik, Staff Writer

Vivian Russell
True North ambassador, Bella, overlooks students tutoring.

TELLURIDE — For more than half a decade True North has been helping teens in the San Miguel and West Montrose counties.  

True North, which was founded in 2014, is a resource for students looking for academic and experiential education opportunities in Telluride and the surrounding areas.  

“We noticed a service gap and kids weren’t doing any community service,” True North Program Director Loren Knobble said.  “Students were falling through the cracks without any path after high school. [There is] no other program like this in the region.”

Vivian Russell is the executive director and co-founder. “True North works across Telluride, Norwood, and Nucla high school districts and our programs reach over 150 teens per year. Last year students participated in 3000 hours of programming and gave over 500 hours of service to their communities.” 

True North community service projects include cleaning the Telluride Free Box and helping out at the Mountains to Desert bike ride among others.

Over the summer True North organizes annual college and career conference. Throughout the school year, True North helps students with building resumes, interviewing skills, and help with FASFA. “We also offer year-round group community service activities and as well as wilderness outings, campouts, and outdoor activities,” Russell says. “True North provides advocacy for teens and is all about helping them find their personal path to success and make plans after high schools, whether that’s college, career or technical school, or an internship or apprenticeship.”

True North runs throughout the year and offers services for students ages 13- to 18-years-old. 

During the year, students use True North’s ability to help them grow and can receive free tutoring after school every Wednesday. They also offer a job fair in the spring for teens looking to work over the summer, and a spring break trip to Moab. 

This is THS senior Shannon Wyszynski’s second year participating in True North’s program.  “I got involved two years ago. It’s just something I wanted to do,” she said.

The program was started by Lanier Nelson, Betsy Walker, Vivian Russell.  

It offers five programs, including academic tutoring, community service learning, experiential wilderness education, college and career readiness, and Rising Stars Summer Bridge program.

Emily Escobar was part of the first Rising Stars program at the end of her eighth-grade-year. She is now a senior at THS. 

She said the program helped her build relationships before going into high school.

“We went out to eat at Oak and then we did activities throughout the summer like going to Fort Lewis, staying over at a house and baking,” Escobar said.  “We went mountain biking.” 

True North programs are free for students. 

“A lot of grant writing, fundraising, and a lot of local partners help fund the program,” Knobble said. “The goal is for every teen participant to graduate high school with a plan and a path to follow into adulthood.” 

In addition to programs outside of school, True North participates in the senior Avid 12 class, taught by THS teacher, Bonnie Emerick.  

“Loren [Knobble] knows a lot,” Emerick said. “She knows a lot about the college application process; she knows a lot about financial aid, scholarships, writing and revising essays.”  

Knobble supports Emerick’s class every Wednesday block period.

THS counselor Alex Jones previously taught the Avid 12 course.  He said about six seniors are presently using True North outside of Avid 12.  

“I like how dedicated they are to helping students to achieve personal success,” Jones said.  “I like how they create opportunities for other students that aren’t available for them; constantly dreaming big to do good and get better. The sky is the limit for them.”

For more information on True North programs, visit