Some parents living in Western Garfield County who commute to the Aspen Valley every morning face the difficult dilemma of having to find affordable daycare for their children.
BoostCamp, a free holistic youth engagement program offered by Access AfterSchool, a Carbondale-based nonprofit, enrolled 160 children this year in its summer session. The program is aimed at students entering grades one through five.
The six-week program was based at Rifle Middle School and ran five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from June 13 to July 22. Between 20 and 25 staff members, including teachers and counselors, oversee the program and it is one of six programs Access AfterSchool has offered across the valley since 2009.
Sheila Maurer, Access AfterSchool program manager, said that each morning the children receive theory lessons before spending the afternoon participating in more hands-on activities.
Students participate in activities ranging from cooking and sewing to learning math and science.
“We have really fun enrichment classes in the afternoons like cooking and science, and they do physical education stuff and fun water stuff, and they go swimming,” a- she declared. “We take them on an excursion every Friday.”
Field trips are diverse and include the Eureka! McConnell Science Museum, Rifle Falls State Park or even a dip at the Rifle Metro Pool.
Dr. Laurie Michaels sits on the Board of Access AfterSchool. An Aspen youth advocate at Parachute, she wanted to start a program for kids who might stay home when their parents go to work in the summer.
Michaels said that in the past there were no summer programs for Rifle students. In the first year of the Rifle program alone, 60 students enrolled. That number has since increased, with 75 children on the waiting list this summer.
“I think the kids there should have the same opportunity parents give their kids in the upper Roaring Fork Valley,” she said.
Many teachers used for BoostCamp are from Garfield School District Re-2. The district also provides facilities for Rifle Middle School.
Meanwhile, through a partnership with the American Red Cross organization Totes for Hope, BoostCamp is offering free breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks.
“It’s a matter of fairness. A child is a child,” Michaels said. “You don’t want to be stuck indoors on a nice sunny day because there’s no one to accompany you.”
Deb Rice, executive director of Access AfterSchool, said BoostCamp is supported by substantial grants offered by the Colorado Health Foundation. The organization partners with nonprofits to better strengthen mental and physical health across the state.
“I was an executive director for 14 years, and it’s about building communities,” she said. “When our young people are cared for and our families are supported, you just create this community that thrives and the kids are socially and emotionally supported, and that helps sustain the schools.”
“It’s a win-win for everyone.”
For more information on BoostCamp and Access AfterSchool, visit https://www.accessafterschool.org.