Could there be a second day camp in Summit County?
Following the decline, and eventual closure, of the Summit School District day camps program, community leaders convened Friday to identify a solution to a rising need for local youth-centered activities. The meeting was organized by The Summit Foundation, and comes after the organization found itself with an onslaught of grant requests for youth-leadership and day care-type activities. The inquires – all received by the beginning of June – were for the foundation’s Special Initiative Fund, which doles out $150,000 over three years to projects supporting community needs not currently being addressed. Foundation members wanted to clarify needs, identify root causes and discuss solutions before moving ahead with funding for any one group. “We’re not sure this issue was ready … We’re not sure what to fund,” foundation executive director Lee Zimmerman told the group. “It’s clear enough it’s an issue, we just want to focus it a little more.” Among members of Friday’s forum were representatives from both The Summit Foundation’s staff and board, the school district, SOS Outreach, Summit County Youth and Family Services, Summit County Public Health Department, Keystone Science School, Family & Intercultural Resource Center, Early Childhood Options and the Summit Prevention Alliance.Some of the groups represented Friday were among the requesters for the grant, and many were listed as collaborative partners, Zimmerman said.
Assembly members started out by brainstorming the greatest need for youth care for ages 8-18. Among the suggestions: affordable, accessible and quality before and after school and holiday care; character and leadership education; closing the minority achievement gap and summer school for low-performing students. Above all, the theme seemed to be a need for money, facilities, transportation and a collaboration, not a competition, between providers. But, is there really a need for care? Gini Bradley, president of the foundation and forum facilitator for the day, pressed attendees for evidence. “I believe if there’s a true identifiable need, we can always find money,” she said. SPA executive director Kari Read pointed to a recent study the alliance conducted at a parent teacher program. When parents were asked if Summit County has a need for a youth-centered activity center, 89 percent said yes. “Each community might have a different need as far as childcare,” Robin Albert, youth and family services manager said. The Mountain Mentors After School Club, held at the Silverthorne Library, is full and has a large waiting list. In Breckenridge, Diane McBride – now Frisco’s Recreation director, but previously the manager at Breckenridge Recreation Center – saw a useful connection between the rec center and the school.The Frisco Fun Club also saw record numbers this summer, a fact partly attributed to the closure of the day camps.One attendee suggested the existing Summit schools – the locations for the now-defunct day camp programs – would be an easy, attainable place for a new program to be held, and it wouldn’t necessarily have to be run by the district. But it’s a matter of money, programming and planning. Some indicated an out-of-school program focusing on academic studies would better help Summit County youth achieve greatness later in life. Others pushed more for character development, which might help reduce rising substance abuse and depression rates among Summit County’s youth. Albert said 88 percent of youth who have a mentor for more than a year graduate high school or receive their GEDs. “If we can get character development we can make changes,” Read said.
One problem at work here is economics, FIRC executive director Tamara Drangstveit said. Many families spend all of their money on rent and food, and “by the time we get to after-school programs, there’s absolutely nothing left.” Others said many families rely on children to help out around the house or work, thus negating time for after-school care.Public Health director Deb Crook pointed out that in the last 10 years, the need for free and reduced lunch prices has jumped about 20 percent in Summit County. At the mentors’ after school program, about 90 percent of families signed up were low-income.
Above all, group members decided the biggest focuses should be on the basics, including money, transportation and facilities. While the members weren’t sure what a new program might look like quite yet, they all decided to meet again next month and decide which attending organization should lead the charge. “It’s an intimidating conversation because it’s so global, but I think we did leave with some steps,” Bradley said.
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