YouthPower365’s Magic Bus seeks $73,000 in funding by Nov. 1 | VailDaily.com

YouthPower365’s Magic Bus seeks $73,000 in funding by Nov. 1

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AVON — Several years ago, Steve and Amy Coyer decided to take a ride on the bus. Not just any bus — the Magic Bus, a mode of transportation that's truly unlike any other.

It's a ride that changed their lives and their view of what early-childhood learning can do to light up young minds. For 10 years, YouthPower365's Magic Bus has graced roadways, brightened library lots and navigated local neighborhoods to ensure that young children have a warm, safe place to learn during a critical, formative time in their lives.

"We quickly became big supporters once we saw the impact of the sessions on the young children who had had no formal early-childhood education because it was too expensive for their families," Steve Coyer said. "The children would learn their colors, letters, numbers and eventually words and more advanced concepts on the Magic Bus, in Spanish and in English. It was heart-warming to see the look of pride on the children's faces as they realized their many accomplishments."

Since 2009, there have actually been two Magic Buses. Together, they run 42 weeks per year and serve more than 96 children, with more than 220 direct contact hours per child. Children come on board each morning and learn throughout the day, travelling to new locations as they explore the brand-new world around them.

A new fleet

All that mileage has added up. Wear and tear — and lots of repairs — mean the current Magic Buses have finally run their course. YouthPower365 Executive Director Melisa Rewold-Thuon said it's time to fuel up and find funding for two new Magic Buses.

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"Last year, we had to spend more than double what was budgeted in repairs and lost more than 15 weeks of service from our buses, which have each traveled more than 140,000 miles," Rewold-Thuon said. "They've been valiant in their service, but when you're talking about putting children into a mobile learning environment, they simply aren't going to be able to meet our standards for very much longer."

The YouthPower365 Magic Bus program works very closely with its families and encourages all parents to apply for the school district's HeadStart and Colorado Preschool Program slots, and as a result, many have been able to attend these other well-respected programs. However, the Magic Bus fills a huge gap in the local community by serving the children who have no option to enroll in any other preschool program and who would otherwise go without a preschool experience prior to entering kindergarten.

The Magic Bus has also recently been approved as a licensed early-childhood program. However, this certification comes with important additional stipulations: bathrooms must be on board, and proper hand washing needs to be part of daily routines. The current Magic Bus can't meet those standards; yet another reason why new buses are in need.

The fundraising has gone well so far, Rewold-Thuon said. YouthPower365 has a pending grant from the Buell Foundation that will provide up to 70 percent of the $400,000 cost for new buses, but in order for the grant to come through, YouthPower365 will need to raise its required 30 percent contribution (or $120,000) to the project by Tuesday, Nov. 1.

As of today, $47,000 has already come through, leaving $73,000 to go in a short period of time.

Fundraising support

Support has come from all corners. Donae Cangelosi Chramosta and her husband, Rob, live in Houston, Texas, but have been visiting the valley since the '70s. They have made a significant donation to the Magic Bus because, she said, she wanted to "give back to the place that has provided our fondest memories."

"By funding YouthPower365's Magic Bus program, we are joining forces with the community to create a cultural change in the way that families in need embrace their children's early-childhood education," she said.

The positive — and lasting — impacts of early-childhood education are well documented. A recent, comprehensive study from the Centers for Disease Control found that early childhood education resulted in increases in maternal employment and income; reductions in crime, welfare dependency, child abuse and neglect; savings in remedial education and child care costs; improvement in health outcomes associated with education; and earnings gains associated with high school graduation.

The same study concluded that the positive effects of early-childhood education are even more powerful when provided for disadvantaged children and families. These findings corroborate what Coyer has witnessed firsthand.

"We've spoken to kindergarten teachers and hear how well-prepared our Magic Bus 'graduates' were when they started school," he said. "From there, they are much more likely to go on and have fruitful educational experiences and more productive lives. In terms of creating a better future for these children, and a better society for all of us, I'm not sure there's a more effective place to lend our support."

To give your support and help keep the wheels on the Magic Bus going round and round, contact YouthPower365's Carrie Benway at cbenway@vvf.org or 970-748-5910.

Magic Bus by the numbers

YouthPower365’s two Magic Buses need to be replaced. Here’s where the fundraising effort stands so far:

• $47,000 has already been raised.

• $73,000 needs to be raised by Nov. 1 to meet grant requirements.

• 95 percent of bus riders are English language leaners.

• 100 percent of bus riders showed growth in the seven areas of Teaching Strategies GOLD after completion of the program.

• 85 percent of kindergarten teachers said Magic Bus students were ready for kindergarten after completion of the program.