Nonprofit stepping up for education during the COVID crisis

Good News Notes:

“When COVID-19 forced Summit54 to cancel its signature program for elementary school students in the lower Roaring Fork Valley last summer, the local nonprofit could have gone on hiatus. Instead, it doubled down on its efforts.

Summit54 created new, free programs to provide tutoring for elementary school students at a time when extra attention is needed more than ever. While the pandemic has made it difficult for schools to regularly hold classes in-person, Summit54 has made sure students could still meet with teachers in small groups.

‘Kids craved interaction. Teachers missed their kids,’ said Terri Caine, Summit54’s executive director. Terri and her husband, Tony, co-founded the organization to boost educational opportunities for youth. Tony climbed Colorado’s 54 tallest peaks, all over 14,000 feet in elevation, to raise awareness and funds for the nonprofit, thus its name.

For the eight years prior to 2020, the nonprofit had partnered with the Roaring Fork School District in a program called Summer Advantage. Each summer between 600 and 750 students in kindergarten through fourth-grade worked with teachers on skills designed to raise their achievement, improve their self-esteem and get prepared for the following school year.

The program reaches many of the students facing the biggest challenges in elementary schools in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The demographics for 2019 showed 84% of the young scholars were Hispanic, 14% Caucasian, 1% Black and 1% other.

Of those who applied for Summer Advantage, 77% qualified for free or reduced-price meals.

Summer Advantage had to be scrapped one month before it was scheduled to start. It was too risky to have teachers and students meeting indoors. Nevertheless, Caine was determined not to let COVID-19 derail the effort.

She scrambled to establish the Summer Success program, where small groups met in regional parks for academic and life-enrichment activities. The program operated four days per week over five weeks in 23 regional parks. The program served about 220 students entering first- through fifth-grades.

‘We wouldn’t have been able to do this if teachers hadn’t stepped up,’ Caine said.

Many teachers who work in the Roaring Fork School District are hired for the summer program.

Kids started their day with a health screen and a session designed by another local nonprofit, Focused Kids, to get them in a relaxed and recharged frame of mind that enhanced learning. Then they had 90 minutes of literacy followed by a nutritious snack and active outdoor play. Their day concluded with 60 minutes of math. The kids were sent home with a nutritious lunch.

The organization and the school district kept the momentum going into fall. Teachers and other educators were hired to provide tutoring in small groups, again meeting outside. The program was offered three days per week for seven weeks from 3:45 to 5:15 p.m. through Oct. 15. Only one session was canceled due to inclement weather. About 130 students took advantage of the program.”

View the whole story here:

Originally published at on February 23, 2021.



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