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Local literacy program survives

Matt TerrellVail, CO Colorado
Theo Stroomer/Vail DailySecond grader Nick Thompson, right, works on math homework during a Youth Foundation after-school program at Gypsum Elementary School.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado A popular after-school program run by the Youth Foundation came very close to being canceled this year because of a major fundraising shortfall.The After School Literacy program, which provided homework help and tutoring to hundreds of students last year, was saved by last-minute pledges by The Vail Valley Foundation, Eagle County School District and Eagle County.The Youth Foundation, which targets at-risk youth in the valley, says more students than ever need the help provided by its programs, and its been difficult for fundraising to keep up with the growth.The problem has been compounded by a shaky economy.With the economy in flux, people are being more conservative with their givings, said Katie Bruen, marketing and events coordinator for the Youth Foundation. From gas prices to the stock market, it impacts everybody in this community.The Youth Foundation hopes to form more long-term partnerships with groups like the school district to create a more sustainable source of funding, Bruen said. A lot of students depend on the Youth Foundation, and it wants to avoid cutting programs because of fundraising shortfalls.We are committed to making this program work and will do whatever necessary to ensure that funds are available in the future so that this will not be a problem further down the road, said board president Jim Allen. We live in a wealthy community that sees the benefit of caring for all children and we are confident that donations will continue to support our work.The big goal of the After School Literacy program is to keep students doing something busy and productive after-school. It splits its time between providing tutoring and homework help and more fun stuff like fishing, yoga, building igloos or getting exercise at the rock climbing wall at the Gypsum Recreation Center.Carol Johnson, a parent of a 10-year-old at Edwards Elementary School, said in a letter to the school board: I can honestly say that the Homework Club (After School Literacy Program) is one of the best programs my 10-year-old daughter has been exposed to that has increased her confidence, efficiency, organizational, personal and leadership skills. She truly always looked forward to attending.Other Youth Foundation programs include the Kindergarten Readiness program, the Magic Bus, The First Tee Sports & Fitness for Life program, and scholarships for college-bound high schoolers through their Guardian Scholars program.Students who are participating in Youth Foundation programs are improving their attendance in school, improving grades and increasing test scores, says Susie Davis, executive director of the Youth Foundation. We know that our programs are having an impact on children, Davis said We are working in partnership with the school district to close the achievement gap. Without having after-school programs in our community the chances of increased juvenile crime and participation of risky behaviors among youth is likely.

For more information about the Youth Foundation or to make a contribution to support the After School Literacy program contact Susie Davis at 970-763-7000 or go to the web-site http://www.theyouthfoundation.org.Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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