PARK CITY, Utah (July 5) — Juggling training and travel along with the pursuit of higher education is a tough pairing for any elite athlete. Yet through a unique partnership between the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and Westminster College, qualified USSA athletes are able to enroll in a college plan that fits both their educational and their athletic pursuits, and they receive full tuition scholarships.
â€œIt would be near impossible for me to continue my college career without this program,â€ said Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT), a cross country Olympian and full scholarship recipient this year. â€œIt’s a nice alternative to training and traveling, and I’m truly enjoying it. The classes are convenient, super flexible and it’s completely free for me. It’s an ideal program for athletes.â€
This summer, Johnson, who last took college classes at Vermont’s Middlebury College in 1999, is currently enrolled in two classes at Westminster. Two-time Olympian Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), a 2003 graduate of the University of Utah, has been taking classes at Westminster since 2005 in pursuit of a master’s degree in communications. And fellow teammates Liz Stephen (Montpelier, VT) and Morgan Arritola (Farifield, ID), also relocated to Park City for better training opportunities and tuition scholarships they received at Westminster.
â€œIt’s an ideal situation for me,â€ said Stephen, a 2005 graduate of Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. â€œI’m able to take a couple of classes, train and even work in Park City for the summer, plus Westminster has excellent exercise facilities, so I can even get in a workout after class.â€
For Arritola, who was previously a full-time student and athlete at Montana State University last year, the Westminster program provides the schedule flexibility she needed to take the next step toward becoming an Olympian.
â€œWestminster and the USSA are a great combo, it was incredibly difficult to handle a full course load and focus on training at the same time,â€ said Arritola. â€œRight now I’m taking a four credit psychology class, training around 20 hours per week and working a few nights to save some money. It’s awesome to have the USSA facilities and coaches right next door and be able to continue going to school at the same time.â€
â€œWe had an excellent amount of interest in the first year,â€ said USSA Senior Director of Development Janine Alfano. â€œThat interest has now started to move into action and more and more athletes are taking advantage of this amazing partnership. This is the seed that we’ve been looking to plant for a while, the next step is to build a training center in Park City and continue creating the best possible programs for our athletes.â€
Located in Salt Lake City, approximately 30 miles from Park City, Westminster College is a fully independent, privately funded, comprehensive liberal arts college offering 35 undergraduate majors, six graduate programs and 20 post-baccalaureate certificate programs.