Tutoring, karate fill gaps for kids | VailDaily.com

Tutoring, karate fill gaps for kids

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyIsabella Miscio, 7, left, practices throwing a tennis ball into the hooped area on the green Thursday at the First Tee program at Willow Creek Golf Course in Eagle Vail.

EAGLE-VAIL ” The kids lined up to putt the golf ball. For some, the ball barely went an inch. Others scooted it a good 10 feet past the hole.

“I like how they teach us new things,” said Daniel Huck, 8, one of the golfers.

At the First Tee program, Daniel also plays soccer and learns karate. But golf is his favorite.

“Because it’s fun and there are hole and pars and birdies and eagles,” he said.

But the First Tee program is about more than golf. It uses golf to teach academic and social lessons, said Dave Kolquist, who runs the local First Tee program. Kids come to the camp once a week for four hours.

The program might produce the next Tiger Woods, Kolquist said.

“But we’d be just as happy producing the next teacher or doctor,” he said.

First Tee is just one of the programs run by the Youth Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides tutoring, sports, computer programs and reading programs for kids.

The Youth Foundation, celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, was started in 1997 by local business leaders who wanted to help lower-income, disadvantaged youth. It has grown to include First Tee, a sports camp for all kids.

Chupa Nelson, owner and president of local builder R.A. Nelson, was one of the business leaders who started the group. He saw a disparity between the opportunities available to his own kids and kids in lower-income families in the valley.

“I think it’s been incredibly successful, and I think we’ve been able to improve and open up a lot of opportunity to the children and that group that just wouldn’t have it had it not been for our program,” he said.

Even as the foundation has expanded over the years ” it now serves more than 700 youth per week through its programs ” the need in the community has grown, Nelson said.

“It hasn’t gotten any better,” he said. “I think the disparity between the two groups has widened, not closed.”

The foundation relies on funding from community members and local companies. It also gets private grants.

“As the programs have gotten larger, the demand for funding has gotten larger,” Nelson said.

The foundation’s programs now include:

– Academic Soccer Club, which combines daily tutoring and a soccer league for middle school students.

– The Neighborhood Net Program, which provides after-school computer access for kids.

– Great Bike Giveaway, which gets bikes and helmets to students before summer vacation starts.

– The After-School Literacy Program, a reading program.

– First Tee.

– Magic Book Bus, which takes books directly to families with young children as well as child-care centers.

– Guardian Scholars, a scholarship program for college students.

Some kids are referred to the programs, often by teachers. The kids sometimes simply need “an extra boost,” said Susie Davis, executive director of the foundation.

Here in wealthy Eagle County, the needs of working-class families can be overlooked, Davis said.

“We want people to come here and see lovely things,” she said. “But it’s really lurking. It is a struggle.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism