YouthPower365 PwrHrs program teaches students in fun, engaging way |

YouthPower365 PwrHrs program teaches students in fun, engaging way

Jackalyn Corona, 9, takes a shot on the Eagle-Vail pool's basketball hoop during an outing with the YouthPower365 PwrHrs summer program on Thursday. The program provides four weeks of academic and enrichment activities to kids that attend several of the valley's elementary and middle schools.
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The Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 PwrHrs summer program is teaching kids that learning is fun.

“We got to open the scat of animals,” said Jackalyn Corona, 9.

On Thursday, students from seven elementary and middle schools celebrated the end of four weeks of engaged education with parties across the county.

“We call it PwrHrs summer camp,” said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, vice president of education for YouthPower365. “Technically it’s like summer school, but it has a fun piece to it.”

During the course of the four-week program, four hours a day, 485 Eagle County students up through eighth-grade gained needed experience with reading and math. They also did some hands-on learning.

Besides learning about cleanliness after dissecting animal poop, the projects at each school varied.

For Homestake Peak and Red Sandstone Elementary School students, the theme this year was Animals in Colorado. That included learning about diets, physical characteristics, dissecting owl pellets and creating scat out of play dough.

“It has been engaging and fun learning,” said Nicole Bentzoni, PwrHrs coordinator for Homestake Peak and Red Sandstone elementary students. “We’ve tried to make the learning not feel like regular school.”

The education element focuses on reading, but it is also STEM-based — science, technology, engineering and math. Some students built structures for weight-baring bridges while some built birds nests and others made water-pressure bottle rockets. There was also arts and crafts, karaoke, soccer and other engaging summer activities.


Cost for each student in the PwrHrs program is $500, Rewold-Thuon said, but parents only have to pay $50 as Vail Valley Foundation donors cover the rest.

Students from Homestake Peak, Avon Elementary, June Creek Elementary, Berry Creek Middle, Eagle Valley Elementary, Eagle Valley Middle and Gypsum Elementary schools all benefit from the program, both in school and life in general.

“My favorite part was that I got to meet new friends,” Jackalyn said.

Local businesses also help out, with prizes being awarded for student attendance among other ways of support.

“Everything YouthPower365 does is to benefit our kids and give them every opportunity possible,” said Cindy Haggen, a teacher at Berry Creek supporting PwrHrs. “It gives them a safe place to go in the summer.”

Haggen was with a group of students playing foot golf in Eagle-Vail at Thursday’s celebration. The students now have eight weeks off before school starts again, but the education never ends.

“We want to instill in them to keep reading and keep learning throughout the summer,” Bentzoni said. “Ready every day is our big thing.”

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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