Early-childhood education gets big boost downvalley | AspenTimes.com

Early-childhood education gets big boost downvalley

Four hundred young students from Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs will get an opportunity this summer to greatly advance their reading, writing and math skills through an innovative, proven program.

Summit 54, a charity founded in and tied to Aspen, received a $336,000 grant through the Mile High United Way to present a five-week program for students in kindergarten through third grade. Nearly all the students will be from low-income families, according to Terri Caine, Western Slope coordinator for Summit 54. The nonprofit organization works with schools to maximize resources and benefit the greatest number of students.

Summit 54 will match the grant to present the Summer Advantage USA program in the Roaring Fork Valley. Caine said Summer Advantage is capable of moving students two to three months ahead in reading, writing and math in five weeks.

“Compare these results with the national norm for kids in lower-income families who typically lose two to three months of knowledge during the summer – the difference is profound,” she said.

Summit 54 will start the Summer Advantage program this summer at Basalt Elementary School and at Glenwood Springs Elementary School. The Glenwood site will serve students of both Sopris Elementary School and Glenwood Springs Elementary School. The program will be operated from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and will include hot breakfast and lunch for all participants. An optional afternoon program also will be offered free of charge to the students in cooperation with Access Roaring Fork until 5:30 p.m. to accommodate the schedules of working parents.

The grant is guaranteed for two years at $336,000 annually, Caine said. At that point it will be evaluated for success and possibly extended another three years.

Summit 54 competed against 37 worthy education efforts to earn one of 11 Social Innovation Fund grants designed to advance early-childhood literacy in Colorado. Mile High United Way announced in October that it had received a $3.6 million grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. It launched an extensive application and review process to decide which organization to contribute to.

The grants were awarded Wednesday at the state Capitol by a team that included Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper. The principals of the elementary schools in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs also attended to show their support for the program. They are Kathy Whiting, of Sopris Elementary School, Penny McDill, of Glenwood Springs Elementary School, and Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo, of Basalt Elementary School.

Summit 54 was founded by Tony Caine, a successful businessman who wanted to channel resources into helping exceptional inner-city students. Since then, the nonprofit’s mission has expanded.

The name of the organization came from Caine’s peak bagging with a purpose. He climbed all 54 of the Colorado peaks above 14,000 feet in 2010 to raise funds for Summit 54.

More on the organization’s efforts can be found at http://summit54.org.

scondon@aspentimes.com