Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 alleviates stress of prolonged summer with help of partners
Special to the Daily
AVON — An endless summer is every child’s dream, but for many parents, it can also create added stress. That’s because a long summer can be a huge financial strain, as parents try to figure out what to do with the kids while they go to work.
Where should kids go during the day? What do we feed them? Who will pick them up and not only make sure they are staying out of trouble, but keep their minds and bodies healthy and active?
A delayed start to the 2018-2019 school year in Eagle County means many parents are searching for answers to all these questions.
Massive school renovations in the Vail Valley mean an additional month’s worth of food and child care expenses for local families. For some families, this simply means more summer camps and time with the kids, but for the families of Eagle County’s 2,554 students who qualify for free or reduced lunches (which equates to 37 percent of all public school students), a prolonged summer creates a serious household economic crisis.
Fortunately, Eagle County has the help of the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365. The organization has partnered with local and national programs to provide aid during these long summer months.
Chief among these is a partnership with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corp, a national service program for ages 18 to 24 that stations teams all across the country to help aid, support and strengthen communities while developing leaders.
YouthPower365 took on the National Civilian Community Corp team to help with its expanding Summer PwrHrs camps, which increased to full-day programs. The longer hours and additional days of programing meant that YouthPower365 needed some extra helping hands.
“We applied for the second round even before the first round started because we knew this would be a difficult summer for families, and that by extending our work in schools and with our community partners, we could make a dent in the impact of the long break,” said Sara Amberg, of YouthPower365.
In addition to their work with YouthPower365, the National Civilian Community Corp team has also assisted various other aid organizations in the valley, such as the Salvation Army, Our Community Foundation, United Way, Eagle Valley Library District, The Literacy Project, Walking Mountains, the MIRA mobile resource bus and summer free lunches from the Eagle County Schools, Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District and Trinity Church.
“It’s very rare that AmeriCorps extends a team’s rounds and sends them back to the same location, but we proved that our valley really benefits from their help,” said Kendra Cowles, of YouthPower365.
National Civilian Community Corp teams also typically end their summer assignments in late June, but because of the specific needs of the community during the summer, YouthPower365 was awarded a National Civilian Community Corp team for the entire summer.
Bettering one another
Cowles said in addition to the immediate impact the team has made on the community, YouthPower365 is also seeking to learn from the team members about how to provide a better system for all the volunteers who come through YouthPower365, as well as how YouthPower365 can foster a more empowering environment for young people.
“We were the exclusive sponsor of the team this year, which meant that there was more oversight and structure to their time here, and we can use their experience and findings within the community to improve our efforts in future years,” Cowles said.
The National Civilian Community Corp team members have found the experience rewarding, and they encourage other young people to consider applying, as well. All of the team members having varying reasons for wanting to join AmeriCorps, but the one common factor is their desire to help others.
“I joined because I wanted to travel and see something different and help communities as much as I can,” said 19-year-old Quentarrius Cole, from Georgia.
Whether or not the National Civilian Community Corp team returns to the Vail Valley depends on a grant application that must be completed yearly, though the recent developments in the partnership between AmeriCorps and YouthPower365 prove that the chances of acquiring another team are promising.
The partnership aims to provide safe, healthy opportunities and support for low-income youth and families, curb the long summer season through relationships and resources and prevent and reduce the academic summer slide during which children lose some of the knowledge they gained over the school year due to lack of exposure.
In addition to the help provided by the team members, the community will also come to recognize the National Civilian Community Corp as a standing part of the efforts of YouthPower365 and to be informed about AmeriCorps service opportunities.
“We also want the youth in our valley to recognize this as an opportunity they may someday be able to pursue. We want to educate our community about another option and one that develops independence and leadership skills,” Cowles said.