Basin Electric, San Miguel Power matching donations help bring documentary films to students

Pre-pandemic, students gathered in auditoriums and gymnasiums to enjoy the Mountainfilm presentation. This photo was taken at Lincoln Elementary School in Delta, Colorado, in 2019. Photo by Jason Merritt.

Students in southwestern Colorado and across the country are benefitting from a matching grant from Basin Electric and Class C member San Miguel Power Association, headquartered in Nucla, Colorado. With the grant, students from Colorado and beyond will be exposed to independent films and inspiring stories they likely would not otherwise be exposed to.

Each year, the Mountainfilm Festival, a four-day film festival consisting of more than 100 independent films, attracts an audience of more than 4,000 people to Telluride, Colorado. After the annual festival, Mountainfilm on Tour takes a selection of best-loved films from the festival across the country, and even internationally. In a normal year, the tour reaches more than 100,000 people in over 200 locations; however in 2020, the festival and subsequent tour were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attracting over 9,000 attendees to the festival and over 40,000 on tour thus far.

For the past five years, Basin Electric has matched a donation by San Miguel Power to help support Mountainfilm for Students, a free student program that collaborates with the hosts of Mountainfilm on Tour, to bring the films to students. Customized educational materials including interviews with the filmmakers, discussion topics, and links to additional resources are also developed as interactive educational tools for teachers as part of this program.

Each year, Basin Electric allocates a portion of its Charitable Giving Program’s budget as matching funds for donations made by its member systems, allowing their donations to go even farther in their communities. “It’s important to support our members and the causes that are near and dear to their communities,” says Jennifer Holen, Basin Electric charitable giving administrator. “This cause is particularly special because it exemplifies three out of five categories we support - matching member donations, education, and culture and arts.”

This year, with the uncertainty created by COVID-19’s impacts on schools, Mountainfilm created a digital version of all playlists and materials to maximize flexibility and provide an additional high-quality curriculum piece to support online remote learning.

“School-age children are the most important audience we can reach, so it's our mission to share content with them that they may not otherwise experience,” says Jason Merritt, development and student programs manager at Mountainfilm. “This program is funded totally by donations and grants, so Basin Electric and San Miguel Power’s support is invaluable in helping us offer these learning opportunities to students. The inspiring nature of these films can provide the spark that compels young people to improve their own lives and their communities.”

Merritt says the subjects and people in the films are relatable, diverse, and emotionally appealing. “Students can relate to the people and situations in the films,” he says. “They see people like themselves overcoming obstacles and it helps them realize they can also overcome. It’s a powerful thing.”

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