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Alumni Feature: Ben Ralston recalls his days at CSS while his daughter attends the school

May 10, 2019

CSS alumni Ben Ralston walks his daughter to her 1st grade classroom.

Alumni Feature: Ben Ralston recalls his days at CSS while his daughter attends the school

In the mornings, Ben Ralston drives his 6-year-old daughter to The Colorado Springs School, which he attended as a boy.

There’s my school!” Genevieve yells from the backseat as they turn onto Broadmoor Avenue. Ralston walks her to her 1st grade classroom.

This excitement, I’m very happy she has it,” he said. “She’s excited to get here at the beginning of the day, and she’s excited to tell me about her day after school. To me, that’s a huge success.”

Genevieve compared her childhood to her dad’s for a recent homework assignment using a Venn diagram. In the overlapping parts where they are similar, she wrote “blue eyes” and “went to CSS.”

It’s cool that I get to go to the same school as my dad because it means I get to learn the same things that he learned so that some day I will know all of the things that he knows,” she said.

Genevieve began her schooling in England, where the family lived until this past summer before moving to Colorado Springs. Ralston and his wife, Viive, wanted a school that matched the one Genevieve attended for two years in Bath. The school focused on experiential learning where she was free to explore and create in a close-knit community — qualities that reminded Ralston of CSS.

We wanted a school that is flexible in her education and provides the opportunities for her to be herself and not fit into a mold,” Ralston said. “At CSS, her individual ability in each subject is used to tailor peer groups that always challenge her. The teachers are very aware of what she needs and she’s thriving because of it.”

Genevieve, for example, is in a reading group with mostly older students to match her level.

She took so well to Dessert Theatre that she asked her parents if she can be in more plays, perhaps at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center where they’ve watched shows. The family worked with Melissa Law, who directs Dessert Theatre and teaches Creative Dramatics for kindergarten through 5th grade at CSS, to find citywide auditions for her. Genevieve is also taking a theatre summer camp.

The Wednesday before her Dessert Theatre performance, I was taking Genevieve to her classroom and she turned to me and said, ‘We get to see our costumes today!’ She seems excited every day here,” Ralston said.

CSS alumni Ben Ralston with his daughter.

It mirrors his own days at CSS, where he attended kindergarten through 7th grade. He recalls being just as enthusiastic as his daughter about CSS. He switched in 1996 to Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, largely to be with his best friend and his brother.

Looking back at the type of education I received at CSS, I wish I could tell my younger self that is the environment I thrive in,” Ralston said.

As a boy, he relished in solving problems, puzzles, anything that pushed him to be creative in his thinking, a drive that was fueled by teachers at CSS who encouraged him to ask questions and find the answers himself.

I was considered the ultimate problem solver as a kid. It wasn’t until I went to different schools that I realized that was a part of the curriculum at CSS — the way that the school provided not just a way to think about something but the framework to allow you to think about something,” he said. “That followed me to my next school and even to college.”

In 2005, Ralston received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Davidson College in North Carolina, then worked in the financial sector until the collapse in 2009. He received an MBA in 2011 from Wake Forest University School of Business.

During his master’s program, he volunteered at Davidson College, helping with fundraising for scholarships, which led to him becoming the Associate Director of Annual Giving. “The work I was doing in education was very fulfilling,” he said.

When the family moved to England, he became the Senior Development Manager for the University of Bath. He is currently the Program Director of the Sachs Foundation, established in 1931 to provide educational opportunities to Black high school students in Colorado. The foundation has helped more than 5,100 students attain their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

His experience in the education field plays a role in the path he wants for Genevieve.

Now that I have worked in education, it has become crucial to me to give my daughter every educational opportunity available and allow her to experience education in a way that is personal to her and allows for her own style of learning,” he said.

"She seems excited every day here," CSS alumni Ben Ralston said of his daughter.

Ralston credits his daughter’s teachers for her success at CSS. “They are responsible for that excitement that I am talking about,” he said. “I’ve thanked them before, but I don’t know if they quite know my appreciation for how much they keep her engaged every day.”

When Ralston walks Genevieve into school, he sometimes flashes back to himself as a boy on campus. He hopes she forms lifetime memories at CSS just as he did.

Having her attend the school I attended at her age frames everything in a way I didn’t expect,” he said. “In many ways, I often feel like I’m attending school right along with her and that we are classmates instead of a father and a daughter. I feel very close to her when we are on campus.”

This is part of an ongoing series focusing on CSS alumni whose children attend the school.

CSS alumni Ben Ralston walks his daughter to her 1st grade classroom.
CSS alumni Ben Ralston with his daughter.
"She seems excited every day here," CSS alumni Ben Ralston said of his daughter.