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Summit County sixth graders ‘jumpstart’ their middle school years

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

Incoming sixth-grader Myles Grant sat quietly amid a gaggle of giggling and chattering students gathered in the Summit Middle School cafeteria on their last day of Jumpstart.

Behind Grant was a bandana, decorated in an abstract image using bright green and black paint.

Nearby, Deacan Spierling had drawn Buffalo Mountain.

Grant, Spierling and the other students were illustrating how they positively contribute to the community, using paint, markers and more. The art projects will be hung in the school alongside those coming in from community groups wanting to participate.

“When I think of Summit County, I think of Buffalo and Summit County as a community,” Grant said. “I really want to ski or snowboard it one day.”

“I like to do art,” Grant said, adding that as a nervous incoming sixth grader, he’s looking forward to seeing a piece of himself hanging in the halls every day.

Jumpstart is designed to give desiring students a leg up as they get ready to set foot in the middle school as students.

The bandana project is new this year, Jumpstart coordinator and literacy resource teacher Robyn Cornwell said. It’s part of a collaboration with Keystone Science School’s Transitions program and other community groups that service children.

“It’s a nice way to add different components and make all four days (of Jumpstart) fun and meaningful for the kids,” Cornwell said, adding that the bandana project helps show the students how community comes together and works together in Summit County – and helps them see ways they can be involved.

“We’ve been lucky to collaborate with Keystone Science School this year (on Jumpstart) and we’re able to focus more on community-building than just the school component,” Cornwell said.

Snowsports Outreach Society (SOS), Mountain Mentors, Summit Prevention Alliance and the youth component of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District were all involved in Thursday’s culminating event.

“It’s an example of other organizations that work together in the community,” Friends of the Dillon Ranger District youth programs coordinator Daniel Eberle said. SOS programs director Theresa Papandrea added that she is better able to help her participants by seeing what they do in Jumpstart.

Jumpstart has been running for more than a decade, and is primarily focused on helping students understand basic functions of middle school – how to open their locker, how to navigate the building, what’s on the school’s website and how to access teacher blogs and assignment pages. They bring in the middle school’s guiding principles as well as information on bullying. They look through their planners and are briefed on a way they can earn a free season pass. If they read 34 hours by Dec. 10 this year, Arapahoe Basin rewards the effort with a pass to the mountain.

It’s an optional event, Cornwell said, but is often well-attended.

“It’s bringing six smaller elementary school communities together in one,” she said. “It provides the opportunity to … Be comfortable coming into school on Day One.”

“Their biggest fear is their lockers,” she said, adding students sometimes have up to three locks to remember how to open and still get to class on time. Other students are anxious about meeting new people, and the four half-days of Jumpstart give them a chance to get to know others in their classes.

Grant admitted he’s still nervous to start middle school, but getting to know the locker combinations was valuable.

“It makes me think I won’t forget the combination,” he said.

For Fairplay resident Lorna Stephens, Jumpstart was all about meeting people. The class sizes are much larger at Summit Middle School, and she’s coming in not knowing anyone. She attended elementary school in Fairplay. She and classmate Emily Sandberg said they feel more comfortable starting sixth grade knowing more people and being better able to navigate the building through Jumpstart.


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