YouthPower365 campers run out the last days of summer with a week of adventure, building |

YouthPower365 campers run out the last days of summer with a week of adventure, building

On the final day of YouthPower365’s pathfinder’s camp, the middle school campers built cornhole boards with the help of GE Construction

Emiliano Meraz, left, helps GE Johnson employees Blake Rast and Rebecca Davis cut plywood for the surface of the cornhole boards as part of YouthPower365 build day Friday at Eagle Valley Elementary School in Eagle. Kids learned how to use power tools and follow directions to build cornhole boards.
Chris Dillmann/

With school starting in just three short weeks, students are rounding out the end of summer with the final days of camp. This week, middle schooler students attending Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 pathfinder’s camp spent their final days exploring, building and getting outdoors.

Deemed adventure week, the goal is to engage the kids in activities that were “hands on” and got them “up-and-moving,” said Matt Jones, a coordinator for YouthPower365 PwrHrs program.

“They get a lot of seat time during the school year,” Jones said, adding that this was amplified this year with students getting even more screen time them usual.

During this fourth and final week of YouthPower365’s pathfinder’s camp, the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students did a range of activities from horseback riding and goat yoga to visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and paintballing. But the final day was dedicated to building.

On Friday, July 30, the campers built cornhole boards with the help, expertise, materials and manpower of GE Johnson Construction, a Colorado-based construction company that built the east wing of the Vail Health hospital.

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Measuring, cutting and assembling the cornhole boards with the help and supervision of GE Johnson employees is exactly the type of hands-on learning the camp was aiming to achieve.

According to Jones, the students, especially those in middle school, are much more engaged when they’re creating something. Plus there is the added bonus that it also teaches valuable math and team-building skills, he said.

Many of the campers have never built something before, but in working together to create something — that a lucky few might even get to take home and use — builds a sense of pride, accomplishment and excitement for the students.

This was the fourth and final build day that GE Johnson completed with YouthPower365 campers this week, building both ladder ball and cornhole sets. But this wasn’t the only business that YouthPower365 partnered with. Throughout the month of July, campers engaged with a number of other organizations on a variety of activities and work.

This included service week, where students worked on trails and served with local organizations like United Way, Salvation Army and the Eagle River Watershed Council; STEM or Creative Technologies week, where students learned coding skills and worked with sensor technology with the Boulder-based University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and a week of career exploration as well as social-emotional work with the Hope Center.

The goal of all of the activities was two-fold, according to Melissa Wills, after-school senior manager of YouthPower365’s PwrHrs program.

“One goal was to support the academic growth of our students. This year was really hard and we saw a lot of decline in the academic success of our students. In partnership with our school district, we designed the summer camps to have some academic roots in it,” Wills said. “The second goal of the summer camp was really to provide a space for social-emotional growth and for social-emotional well-being too.”

While the middle-schoolers attending the pathfinder’s camp were much more centered on the latter social-emotional growth, the elementary school students, participating in what YouthPower365 called Aerospace Academy, were much more focused on academic growth. These elementary-aged students engaged in activities centered around problem solving, engineering, literacy and art. And, as an added bonus, they also got to hear first-hand from NASA astronauts as well as local pilots.

Following a challenging year filled with social distancing and fewer activities, summer camp offered all students, regardless of their age, a chance to reengage with their peers and with learning.

“We wanted to provide them a space to have fun, to connect and to explore who they are as a person, as a friend, as a community member,” Wills said.

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