After School Enrichment gets a boost |

After School Enrichment gets a boost

Cindy Ramunno
Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY ” Thanks to the Vail Valley Foundation, the academic careers of 32 Eagle County elementary students have gotten a big boost.

With a $64,000 grant from the Foundation, these 32 local children will begin their schooling with a solid educational background. The money has been channeled to the local After School Enrichment program for area 5- and 6-year-olds.

“This program is designed to provide an exemplary child care environment with a focus on learning,” said Carolyn Neff, Eagle County School District director of elementary education. “Extensive research, coupled with our schools’ first-hand experience, indicates that children who receive supplementary learning experiences will have greater success in school.”

The After School Enrichment for 5- and 6-year-olds is not funded by the state. Colorado only pays for kindergarten as a half-time program. While Eagle County Schools augment kindergarten with a five-day enrichment option, families who enroll in the full-time program pay $250 per month in tuition.

“A growing number of Eagle County families would like to have their children attend a full-time program but they cannot afford the tuition,” said Neff. “Many of these children are new to our country and they have limited English language capabilities. They are the kids who need after school enrichment and with the generous support of the Vail Valley Foundation, they will now get the early childhood learning opportunities that will help ensure later school success.”

The Vail Valley Foundation has created a scholarship fund called Success at Six to provide scholarships for various child care opportunities in Eagle County. The school district’s After School Enrichment program is one of the Success at Six recipients.

“The Vail Valley Foundation has a mission to support the educational, cultural and athletic opportunities that provide a singular, exceptional experience in our community,” said Elaine Kelton, chairwoman of the education committee for the Vail Valley Foundation board of directors. “Success at Six is an area where we see all our efforts as a board and as an organization truly raising the quality of life for this community’s children. This program has the potential to bring all kids up to a level playing field.” g field.”

Kelton said the support for Success at Six from Foundation donors has been in turn supported by the Colorado child care tax credit. This tax-credit program enables donors to receive tax credit when they designate funds for qualified programs, such as the After School Enrichment effort.

Those donations are making a huge impact for Eagle County students, said Edwards Elementary School kindergarten teacher Christina Valderrama.

“Basically, the benefit is there is continuity so the kids can be exposed to the curriculum in a more comprehensive way,” she said. “The more they are exposed, the more they can learn.”

Cyndy Secrist, principal at Edwards Elementary School, echoed those sentiments.

“As we look at early literacy assessment, the data clearly demonstrates that kids who attend programs like this are higher achievers than kids who do not,” she said. “And specifically, for the kids who receive scholarships, they are the children who most need the extra attention.”

Last year, the Vail Valley Foundation’s Success at Six program provided scholarships for nine children to enroll in After School Enrichment at Meadow Mountain, Red Hill and Eagle Valley elementary schools. This year the 32 scholarships are spread out among the district’s eight elementaries, including a 16-student group at Edwards Elementary School.

For more information, contact Natalia Hanks at the Vail Valley Foundation, 949-1999.

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