Holiday Benefit Party for Rural Pathways

Pixabay Photo

MEEKER | On Dec. 22 at the Mexican House in Meeker, Rural Pathways Project is hosting our second annual Holiday Benefit Party. If you are reading this now, consider yourself cordially invited to celebrate our community and raise money for scholarships that will directly benefit college-bound rural teens. Below is our run of show for the evening.

Dinnertime: Join us at The Mexican House for dinner before the party.

Tickets: $25 (21-plus, includes one drink), $15 (under 21). Buy them online before the event and automatically receive a tax deductible gift receipt. To buy tickets go to this link:

7 p.m.: Doors open. Live music by Venados de la Sierra. Light appetizers will be served.

8 p.m.: Hear from the RPP Board and 2017 scholarship winner Elissa Quinteros. We’ll also be giving away free college advising sessions for current high school students.

8:30 p.m.—close: Live music by Matt and Shana Holliday

For those of you new to this story, the Rural Pathways Project is the brainchild conceived of two glaring patterns constant in my life since the moment I graduated high school.

First, the absence of people like me, ranch kids from rural America. I have few personal friends and fewer professional colleagues with any understanding of the way of life in rural America.

Second, a fascination with the perception of my upbringing by those unfamiliar. Always a well-intended, yet poorly directed, I’ve grown accustomed to hearing some derivative of: “I never would have guessed, but regardless, look at you now!”

From these sentiments was born the need for an organization that could support the educational and career development of kids like me. The idea that the success and mobility of rural students exists despite their upbringing has always felt backward. True, hurdles are ‘a plenty. But I believe that it’s specifically because of my experience growing up in Meeker on the ranch, that I’ve found success away from it.

So, I rallied a group of people I admire, some from rural places and some not, to help me found the 501(c)3 non-profit Rural Pathways Project. Today we’re working to rewrite that narrative.

The Rural Pathways Project’s inaugural year was as successful: we threw a benefit party in December of 2017 and offered a $2,000 scholarship to MHS Class of 2018 grad, Elissa Quinteros.

Our focus has intensified as we look forward to year two, prioritizing support of rural students once they enter college. Over the next six months we’ve planned some exciting initiatives.

January 2019—Virtual College Advising for high school students focusing on 1) the college application process 2) career ideation and development and 3) goal setting.

February 2019—Launch of partnership with The School of The New York Times, to offer one-two scholarships for rural students to attend a summer program in New York City or Washington, D.C.

March 2019—Scholarship for Meeker High School seniors application opens.

May 4, 2019—Grand Valley Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K (Palisade, Colo.)

Run a race or any length with our Rural Pathways Project team and raise money for a great cause. Team members will receive a team t-shirt, virtual coaching and training tips, and be invited to the post-race meal where we can celebrate together.

To get more information about any of these initiatives and to stay in the loop, join our newsletter (link: or follow our social handles: Facebook—“Rural Pathways Project” and Instagram: @ruralpathwaysproject. You can also read more about our work by visiting our website at:

Don’t forget to get your ticket to the second annual Benefit Party (link: and we’ll see you soon. Happy holidays!

By MEG NIESLANIK | Special to the Herald Times

Founded in 2017 by Meeker High School alumnus Meg Nieslanik, Rural Pathways Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to support the identity and career development of teens living in rural communities through mentoring, education and scholarship.