Local middle schoolers shine on ‘SummerQuest’
School and home are different worlds for most kids. But when a student speaks English at school and Spanish at home, those worlds are even farther apart.For the past nine years, students and teachers from the private Vail Mountain School in East Vail have helped bring those worlds closer together for a group of local middle schoolers who attend public school. The “SummerQuest” program – which runs weekday mornings for five weeks – brings together teachers and students from the private school, who help the public school students with their language and math skills.Those skills are crucial to performance in this era of standardized tests. SummerQuest also aims to keep kids thinking about school when both their work habits and language change.”We speak Spanish at home,” said student Tania Lopez, who will go into eighth grade at Berry Creek Middle School next month. “This is great because I can talk to people in English.”Like all SummerQuest students, Lopez was originally recommended for the program by her fifth grade teacher, then signed up for the program before entering seventh and eighth grades. She said it’s been a big help.”This helped me get my best grades ever last year,” she said. “It’s like a review so you can start your next grade.”Besides the work, though, David Gonzalez, who will be a seventh grader at Berry Creek next month, said SummerQuest has given him a chance to read books he’s never read before, such as a book about baseball he was toting last week.The summer sessions help kids retain what they’ve learned the previous year, teacher Maggie Pavlik said. More important, though, kids can build on their summer experiences.”Last year we had kids who spoke very little English in the program,” she said. “This year, their skills are great. What we want to do is work on building, then maintaining and honing their skills.”To do that, students are put into grade-level groups with three-person teams consisting of a college student and a Vail Mountain School student and teacher.”It’s been great,” student Josh Smith said. “You really get to know the kids, and see how they progress.” Smith, who graduated from Vail Mountain School in June and heads to college at the University of Colorado next month, has worked the SummerQuest program for the past three years.”It’s a good opportunity to teach the younger kids, and you get to play games and learn about them,” he said. While the focus is on learning at SummerQuest, it is vacation time, after all, so the kids get to play a bit, too. In addition to English and math classes, students can choose from electives that include cooking and arts and crafts. The kids also take a field trip or two, the most recent being a day trip to the University of Colorado to check out the campus.”The trip to Boulder was cool,” Gonzalez said. For Lopez, the trip was an inspiration.”I liked seeing how the students live,” she said. “I knew I had to do well to go to college, but now I really want to go.”Like any form of education, it takes money to put on SummerQuest. Students aren’t charged, though, Instead, the costs are covered by Vail Mountain School parents, primarily through the school’s December plant sale. The program also has a large handful of corporate sponsors.With that kind of support, students will be able to cross worlds more easily for a long time.Scott Miller, a writer based in Vail, Colorado, can be reached at email@example.com.
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