Making the most of after school in Eagle Co. |

Making the most of after school in Eagle Co.

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Theo Stroomer/Vail DailySecond grader Nick Thompson, right, works on math homework during a Youth Foundation after-school program at Gypsum Elementary on Thursday.

GYPSUM, Colorado ” Walk around Gypsum Elementary after 2:50 p.m., and it doesn’t look at all like school’s out.

In one room, you’ll find students putting together the school newspaper and working on homework.

In the next room, fifth graders are editing photos for the yearbook. Down the hall, you’ll find students with headphones in the computer lab, sprucing up their reading, writing and math skills with the “Study Island” program.

Some students take violin lessons. Others are surrounded by glue, scissors and crayons, immersed in an art project.

A short walk away, at the Gypsum Recreation Center, several students are getting exercise on the climbing wall, doing laps in the pool or working up a sweat with the video game Dance Dance Revolution.

All this is part of the After School Literacy program, sponsored by the Youth Foundation.

The big idea is to keep these students busy and doing something productive and enlightening after school, instead of going home to an empty house, where a television may be the only baby-sitter until the parents get home.

You can find the After School Literacy Program at Edwards, Avon, Meadow Mountain and Gypsum elementary schools.

To join the program, students have to be referred by a teacher or counselor. Most of the students either come from low-income families or are struggling with grades. The program also enrolls a large number of students who are still learning English.

It’s all part of the Youth Foundation’s larger mission ” to reach out to economically disadvantaged youth in the valley who need help.

“We want to provide opportunities to the underprivileged and level the playing field,” said Katie Bruen, the marketing and event coordinator for the Youth Foundation.

Students spend two days a week working on homework after school with teachers and get one-on-one tutoring. This is when students can sharpen their skills and get the attention they aren’t always able to get at home.

“Many students need help with homework because their parents don’t speak English,” Bruen said.

Two days a week, the students do something a little more fun.

What that “fun thing” is depends on the creative minds of the teachers at each school.

At Meadow Mountain Elementary, students spent weeks learning how to build an igloo and how they can keep people warm.

At Avon Elementary, just a short walk away from Nottingham Lake, students learned how to fish ” a lesson that eventually led the students to a lake-cleanup project.

Another teacher at Avon Elementary started teaching students Yoga and actually tied some of the Yoga positions to animals they learned about in class.

In Gypsum, the students get to play at the recreation center.

The Literacy Program used to be all homework, all the time, which made the program something kids didn’t really like attending. Now, with big activities like rock climbing, the students look forward to the program, Bruen said.

“We want them to be excited to come here after school, and they genuinely like coming here” said Johnna Williams, a teacher at Gypsum Elementary and coordinator for the After School Literacy Program. “We’re letting them have fun, but

we still make time for the academics.”

Most of the instructors with the After School Literacy Program are teachers who already work in the school district.

The programs gives teachers a chance to see a different side of the students, and it pays pretty well too, Williams said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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