ReSchool Colorado News Article

Nonprofit to Fund Summer Camps
Kids playing violins

Many Colorado families struggle to afford pricey summer camps.
A nonprofit is footing the bill for hundreds.

ReSchool Colorado will connect nearly 800 kids to summer learning and fun,
helping them overcome an opportunity gap that extends from the school year into summer.

For many Colorado kids, options for summer break are limitless,from day and overnight camps to trips to museums and zoos. But for others, summer comes with far fewer opportunities, boiling down to those that are low cost or no cost.

In many cases, how students spend their summer is dictated by the kinds of activities, camps and learning experiences that their families can afford. The sharp differences in opportunities that kids can access during the school year are mirrored, if not magnified, during June, July and August.

A Colorado nonprofit is trying to bridge the opportunity gap by putting more dollars directly in the hands of parents, empowering those who know what their children need best to make decisions about how their summer plays out. ReSchool Colorado, which aims to make learning outside of school more accessible for all students, will connect nearly 800 kids to summer activities or summer resources that may otherwise dangle out of reach: attending summer camps; getting tutored; enjoying arts programming; receiving swim lessons; or obtaining materials such as books, school supplies and art kits.

The nonprofit isn’t the only one in Colorado committed to helping low-income families overcome the financial hurdle of summer fun. Other organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs and Denver Afterschool Alliance, are also working to provide low-income families with options for summer programming. But ReSchool Colorado, which emerged in 2013 under the Donnell-Kay Foundation and became its own nonprofit in 2018, is unique in that it funnels dollars to families so that they can choose the camps, activities and resources that suit them best.

Children and their parents have a strong sense of what they’d like to try or what academic challenges they need to tackle, said Amy Anderson, executive director of ReSchool Colorado. When parents have access to resources to use in the way that reflects the best interest of their child, “it’s what every parent wants for their kid, really,” she said.

Each year, more-affluent families on average spend between $5,000 and $10,000 on out-of-school activities per child to supplement learning, Anderson said, citing “Our Kids,” a book by Harvard University research professor Robert Putnam.

Anderson’s organization will provide low-income families $500 per child this summer to pursue summer programming, building off an initiative last summer that granted dollars to families hit especially hard by the pandemic. ReSchool Colorado dispensed about $25,000 to more than 160 kids from 71 Colorado families last year to propel their learning over the summer. But the need far exceeded that pot of money — within two weeks, the organization netted 500 applications and had to shut down the application process because of its limited dollars.

The summer funding initiative expanded on ReSchool Colorado’s efforts with its Learner Advocate Network, through which it has assisted employees from Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver and Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge. The organization helps staffers who struggle to juggle work and meet their children’s needs — especially during summer, when working parents need to find a safe place for their children. As the pandemic hit, health care workers faced the same challenge during the school year, wondering how to care for their kids while also needing to be on the job. 

For several years, the organization also gave families grants, or “learning dollar funds,” through which it helped parents part of the Learner Advocate Network solve some of those problems and afford learning opportunities their children may otherwise not have. Those dollars have helped parents afford everything from sports equipment to instruments to camps and other enriching activities. As needs for access to summer learning escalated among families statewide last year during the pandemic, the organization shifted to fund a broader pool of parents and kids.

This year, the nonprofit’s Learning Dollar Fund has ballooned to about $400,000, through grants and donations. The fund folds into ReSchool Colorado’s core mission of leveling the playing field when it comes to learning beyond the classroom. Anderson said that school accounts for about 20% of a child’s waking hours every year. 

For the remainder of their time, she said, “it’s important to fill that with experiences and opportunities that will help them carve their path toward their future.”

[continue reading onThe Colorado Sun's website]

The Colorado Sun [Internet], Erica Breunlin.

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