Steve Kaufman: Guest Opinion |

Steve Kaufman: Guest Opinion

Nationally, more than 14 million K-12 youth must fend for themselves before a parent or guardian returns home from work. In Colorado, 40 percent of middle school students have no after-school supervision. This is reflected in juvenile crime statistics, which triple between 3 and 8 p.m.

As a country and in our own community, we are failing to keep our children safe. Our educators and youth agencies are keenly aware of the opportunities we are missing to reduce drop-out rates and curtail antisocial behaviors. By failing to provide safe, mentored and productive environments in the after-school hours we are giving up on a proven method to improve our kids’ education and enrich their lives.

In the fall of 2006, Access Roaring Fork began an after-school technology program at Carbondale Middle School (CMS) focused on developing digital communications skills.

CMS faces some real challenges. Demographically, Carbondale Middle School is 73 percent Latino. Just over 50 percent of the student body qualifies either for reduced-cost or free lunches. As a whole the Latino student population scores 40 percent lower than their Anglo counterparts on standardized tests.

Another factor that affected our decision that is not directly connected to CMS is the rise in juvenile crime throughout Garfield County.

It was clear immediately that after-school programming could address some of the challenges the school faces. Access Roaring Fork joined the nation’s largest after-school organization and researched how our local community needs could best be served by the “best practices” being developed for after-school programs in other communities throughout the country.

A pilot project for Carbondale Middle School was launched on Dec. 2. It is modeled after some of the country’s most successful after-school programs, designed to be sustainable in three to five years and includes a number of local organizations.

Programming is now being provided on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays from 3:30-5:30 p.m. One hundred and fifty-two kids are currently registered for art, athleticism, music, theater, technology, soccer and homework help.

The organizations involved with the pilot program include The Aspen Music Festival and School, Thunder River Theater Co., The WIN Wellness Institute, The First Tee, Carbondale Council on the Arts and Humanities, Anderson Ranch, YouthZone, the RE-1 School District, The Youth Foundation (a Vail Valley after school program), Carbondale Middle School administration and staff, and Access Roaring Fork.

Statistical information is being gathered from students, teachers and parents in an effort to demonstrate measurable gains across a variety of education and social goals. And a long-term sustainability plan is being developed which includes taxed-based support in collaboration with Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties.

I cannot understate the importance of after-school programming. It has been proven successful time after time in many different communities.

The following is a quote from a 2006 interview from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan:

“My mother tried to start an after school program in 1960 at the local public school. They didn’t allow her to, so she had to work in a church basement across the street.

“About 30 years later … my sister and I tried to start an after school program and we weren’t allowed to, so we ended up in the same church basement as my mother.

“So the first thing I said I would do when I got this position [head of the Chicago schools] was to open up the schools to the community … these fabulous building where previously the kids were swept out of there and into the streets. It’s incomprehensible to me.

“We now have a set of over 100 schools that are open 14 hours per day, 6 days a week, 11 months a year, with a whole host of after school programming; academic enrichment …, drama, music, chess, sports, debate …

“School becomes the true heart, the true center of community, the center of the family’s life. This is hard work. It’s harder to keep schools open, it’s messier, it’s dirtier … but it’s the right thing to do. Children desperately need it and they need it now more than ever.”

Broad community financial support is essential if the pilot program at Carbondale Middle School is to be in a position to successfully compete for the federal and state funding which will become available in the near future. We encourage all those interested in supporting this effort to contact us at 970 963-5646 or

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