Inventing their future |

Inventing their future

Members of Colorado's Hispanic Bar Association talked to SummerQuest students during Family Night, about setting high goals and working to achieve them. SummerQuest helps students sharpen their academic skills, as well as art and athletics. The program runs through July at Vail Mountain School.

VAIL, Colorado – SummerQuest helps kids improve math and reading, which is good, but they learn that there is no achievement without effort, which is better.

Take Jose Valesco and Jose Ovalle, for example. They are alumni of the SummerQuest program.

“We learned that if you set a goal, and if you don’t give up, you can reach it,” Ovalle said.

“There are people who can improve a lot. You just have to work hard,” Valesco said.

Alena Chavez was one of three SummerQuest students to give a beautifully uncomplicated graduation message.

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” Chavez said.

Vail Mountain School headmaster Peter Abuisi launched the SummerQuest program 17 years ago.

SummerQuest is for kids in grades 6-8 from area schools who are recommended by their teachers. They’re kids with lots of potential, but who need a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Some come with a few issues, as do we all: socio-economic, family life, just about anything.

But they love to learn and they love being here.

Local teachers, along with Vail Mountain School students, faculty and alumni, tutor and mentor these children in mathematics and language arts, and help them build confidence.

The program is rapport driven, said Liana Sideli, the director.

“They want to come to school because they have such a great relationship with their teachers,” Sideli said.

Ovalle and Velasco graduated last year and liked it so much they’re back this year to volunteer. Vail Mountain School alum Sylvan Ellefson, for example, is working with Luke Cunningham.

Matt Felser is a Vail Mountain School Spanish teacher. Lauren Zdechlik is a Vail Mountain School grad and a sophomore at Bates College in Maine. Yoana Gonzalez is a Battle Mountain High School senior and a SummerQuest grad. She’s back to help.

“You learn more by teaching something. You have to really know it,” Ovalle said. “It’s an opportunity to learn more and it’s fun.”

The month-long program runs through July. They study language arts and math, art, they do outdoor activities and they have an elective every day. On this day they were studying chemistry by baking muffins. Some others learned to manipulate photos using Instagram on an iPad.

Antonia Saucedo created a scale model of the Olympic pool. Carol Macias made a beach volleyball court, and Juan Macias built a scale model soccer field.

It helps them keep both their academic and physical muscles toned.

“It makes it easier when you go back to school and you’ve been practicing,” said Alena Chavez, one of three eighth-graders tabbed to give the graduation speech.

Every class takes field trips. Some do ropes courses and high adventure destinations. The eighth graders this year went to CU Boulder to get a look at what might be next in their lives.

At last week’s Family Night, two members of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association came up to speak to the kids about setting lofty goals.

The object is to inspire confidence they need to invent their future.

Dr. Kate Drescher, staff psychologist at Vail Mountain School, works with SummerQuest students.

“It truly takes a village to raise children, and this program recognizes the importance of the families’ involvement in the students’ education and upbringing,” she said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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