GREELEY, Colo. (AP) – Phoenix Ventura was just 9 years old when she took on her first entrepreneurial challenge.

She wanted that little green dress hanging in the window of the skate shop at the Greeley Ice Haus so badly that she was determined to do whatever it took to get it.

“She came home one day and told me she had to have $80 for this dress,” said Phoenix’s mother, Margie Ventura. “I told her, ‘Well, I guess you need to find a way to pay for it.’ ”

A couple of days later when Phoenix came to her with $80 in checks, Margie was mortified.

“I went around the neighborhood and asked my neighbors if they would donate to me so I could buy this dress that I wanted for skating,” said Phoenix, 14, now able to laugh at the idea.

PHOTO GALLERY: Coloradans In The Olympics In London

Margie went back to all the neighbors and tried to return their money. But they all thought Phoenix’s determination deserved the dress.

Five years later, Phoenix gets all the little green dresses she wants – any color she wants, as well – as she trains to reach the national figure skating championships within the next two years. That determines the U.S. teams for both the World Figure Skating Championships and the Winter Olympics.

Phoenix first started skating six years ago, when a friend invited her to a birthday party at the Ice Haus. After that, Phoenix and her friend started skating every Wednesday just for fun. Another girl who was at the rink practicing made the pair want more.

“I really liked it,” Phoenix said. “We were inspired by her. I wanted to do all the same jumps and things she was doing.”

Entrepreneurial challenge No. 2: Phoenix needed to pay for lessons. So she went back to the same neighbors who helped her get the dress and asked if they would save their aluminum cans for her.

By the end of 2007, Phoenix was registered in her first competition.

To reach her goals of nationals, the soon-to-be freshman has a tumultuous schedule that includes three hours of practice a day. Those include twice-a-week training sessions with her main coaches in Westminster, once a week in Fort Collins with another coach and the rest of the week at the Ice Haus. She also travels quite a bit to various events.

Phoenix does all this while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point-average at school, despite it being an untraditional route. This fall, the Greeley native will begin her fifth year at Colorado Connections Academy, an online public school based out of Denver.

“I was missing too much school getting out early to go to practice and competitions,” said the teen who has been considered gifted and talented throughout her education. “And (school officials) weren’t really in agreement with that.”

Phoenix attended Scott Elementary and Winograd K-8 schools before switching to Colorado Connections Academy the second half of her fourth-grade year. She said the change has made a big difference.

“They offered the things I was interested in,” she said. “It was easy to get bored in the classrooms, but (Colorado Connections Academy) challenged me. They have a strict schedule for when you need to be done each year, but otherwise it’s flexible. I can call my teachers for help, and I can go to Denver and work with a teacher if I need to.”

She admits that sometimes motivating herself to do the work is hard, but that’s when mom steps in and gives her the push she needs.

“It’s hard, especially when I come home after skating because I am so tired,” she said. “Sometimes I’m doing homework at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Aside from her skating, Phoenix wants to study languages and be a college linguistics professor someday.

But that’s after the Olympics. …

– By SHERRIE PEIF, The Greeley Tribune

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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