Guest Column: It takes a village |

Guest Column: It takes a village

“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” — Nigerian Igbo and Yoruba proverb

While this phrase has become somewhat trite, it is no less true. And we are fortunate, indeed, to live in a community where we really do have a village of people and organizations engaged in the endeavor of raising children. Obviously, parents play the prime role in rearing children, and schools play a large part for most youth. There also are many youth-serving organizations to help fill in the gaps. What you may not be aware of are the many ways that these organizations are working closely with schools to support them in their missions.

Some of these partnerships are more obvious, as with Summer Advantage, run by Summit 54 in the lower valley. Summer Advantage serves more than 750 youth in kindergarten through third grade in the lower Roaring Fork Valley each summer. Focused on both academic and social development, the program offers five weeks of rigorous academic instruction in the morning and afternoon enrichment activities. On another front, the Aspen, Basalt and Roaring Fork education foundations are directly helping the schools raise money to support their teachers and fund their programs. But with an increased focus on standardized testing and teaching specific curriculum, classroom time and teacher bandwidth are often at a premium.

This is where nonprofits can help support educators. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which has partnered with local schools since 1975, is a great example of this. It provides standards-based, environmental-science education for preschool to high school students from more than 42 regional schools that are stressed to meet increasing standards set by the state. The Aspen Science Center also brings science education into classrooms to kids of all ages, augmenting the work of teachers with hands-on, fun experiments and demonstrations, both during class and outside school. And the Aspen Community Foundation is helping to organize and fund programming for Enrichment Wednesdays, when school lets out early and students would otherwise have few options for educational enrichment.

The Buddy Program has similarly pioneered new ways of supporting the schools. Our Lemonade Day program is being taught in three elementary schools this year, in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale, as part of a curriculum that helps teachers meet their state-mandated academic standards. Our Peer-to-Peer program matches high school students with middle and elementary school students to meet on a weekly basis over lunch. Our Outdoor Leadership program is entering its third year at Roaring Fork High School, with plans to expand to Basalt in the coming year. This class is designed, funded and taught by the Buddy Program, and students are graded and earn elective credit for participating. Students log more than 100 hours in the classroom, learning about topics ranging from backcountry travel and first aid to ecological awareness and topographical map reading. Equally important, they spend more than 200 hours together outside the classroom, designing and implementing service-learning projects, hikes and overnight camping trips and spending time outdoors with other organizations such as Wilderness Workshop, EcoFlight, Aspen Expeditions and many others. Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers supports this initiative at the high school level as well as partnering with the Buddy Program at Carbondale Middle School to offer a yearlong Outdoor Leadership program for seventh- and eighth-graders including monthly meetings focused on building life skills and a fall and spring trip.

We truly do live in a village, and all of these organizations, plus many more that aren’t mentioned here, are working together to support the schools and families that are so crucial to the success of our community. To those of you already contributing to the village, thank you! If you are not yet involved and would like to participate, reach out and get involved. With so many great organizations to choose from, you will surely find one that speaks to your passion.

David Houggy is executive director of the Buddy Program.

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