Mission & Values

Mission & Values


Telluride Association’s mission is to create free educational programs that challenge young people to build community, learn together, and make democratic decisions in order to think critically about the world and begin to create a more just society.


Telluride Association was founded to “promote the highest well-being by broadening the field of knowledge and increasing the adoption as the rule of conduct of those truths from which flows individual freedom as the result of self-government in harmony with the Creator.” Our founding documents also instruct us to “preserve inviolate a democratic form of government. No class or other artificial distinction shall be tolerated” (Preamble and Constitution). In the century and some since our founding, we have interpreted and redefined these values in many ways as new trustees have assumed their roles, programs have begun, grown, or ended, and our social, historical, and cultural contexts have shifted. The most recent statement of this interpretation is our 2013 Purpose, which we have mostly used internally (i.e. for membership applicants and our own reference). 

Generations of Telluriders, particularly those at our Branches, have used the shorthand of the “three pillars” to summarize what makes TA unique. Those pillars are:

These pillars describe what we do, rather than what we value–although as should be clear, they are intimately connected to our values. And–perhaps most importantly–they do not speak to our pressing need to interrogate the structures of the Association and its programs along the lines of antiracism, equity, and justice. Three of the values below are elaborations of these pillars that take these concerns into account; the final value, transformation, seeks to encapsulate our sense of the uniqueness of a Telluridean education. 

The 2024 Statement of Values represents our interpretation of Telluride’s core values and our aspirations for what Telluride Association can and should become. We will use these values to guide our work, to understand and explain our distinctive philosophy, and to measure our successes and failures.

The Members of Telluride Association in Convention, January 2024


We prioritize racial equity in our programs and proactively and consistently confront racial hierarchies (particularly white supremacy) in our work. We also recognize that race intersects with other forms of identity and other structures of oppression. These include class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and national origin. The Telluridean pursuit of justice and truth depends upon identifying and challenging oppression, both in our own communities and in the wider world. 


We are curious about ourselves, one another, and the world. We ceaselessly tackle intellectual and social problems by asking questions. We also relish the joys of discovering and debating the answers. We are eager to find an education everywhere: in our summer seminar classrooms; at PubSpeaks and AcAffs; around the Branch dinner tables; and by encouraging experiential and experimental forms of learning. 


We give young people the power to make decisions about how to organize their communities. We also offer them tools to address inequities and resolve conflicts. We know that democracy only works when everyone has access to organizational power. Thus, we practice collective decision-making in our programs and board in pursuit of fairness and justice. We prepare our students and ourselves to be thoughtful, engaged, and conscientious members of democratic societies. 


We value the intense forms of learning that come in small, tight-knit communities, but we also recognize that our communities cannot be insulated from the wider world. We ask our students, staff, and board to challenge the replication and reinforcement of social inequities in our own spaces, whether they come from racism, classism, sexism, ableism or any other form of prejudice. We depend on each other to do our collective work, and we know that we can only do our best work if we challenge these forms of injustice. We also depend on each other’s friendship and fellowship. Forging bonds with one another, through both work and play, is at the heart of our practice of community.


We ask young people to open their hearts and minds to their fellow Telluriders. By doing so, participants let themselves discover wholly new things about themselves, their peers, and their views on the world. Intensity of thought and feeling can permanently transform the self, which is both humbling and exhilarating. This transformative experience, alongside the values of curiosity, democracy, and community in our programs, builds a capacity to transform the world, to seek out ways to leave our communities better places, and to “discharge [our] obligations to humanity.”(1)

(1) This is from the 2013 Statement of Purpose.