RANGELY I If earning college scholarship money, finding a career path and inspiring lifelong interests sound like good ways to fill your kids’ time this summer, Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) can help.
“Reach Your Peak” summer camps, funded by CNCC and the El Pomar Foundation, begin in June. Geared toward students in sixth through 12th grades, the camps aim to get kids excited about learning via interactive, hands-on experiences.
“Keeping kids active and learning through summer actually improves their grades once they get back to school,” said Robyn Wilson, a CNCC “Reach Your Peak” coordinator and the college’s academic adviser/intervention specialist. “We’re trying to spark their interest for the future, keep them engaged for the summer and give them something to do. There’s such a wide variety that we’re really trying to capture some interest in all kids.”
Although the El Pomar Foundation has helped fund CNCC summer camps for the last two years, the number of 2015 “Reach Your Peak” courses far exceeds past offerings. The college will host seven camps this year on local history, planting a permaculture orchard, the fundamentals of geometry, ceramics using local clay and equine training, along with two agriculture courses in Oak Creek on hydroponics and artificial insemination.
CNCC student success and retention coordinator Caitlan Moore said the mix of “Reach Your Peak” camps grew out of seeing what qualified instructors could offer and gauging student interest in potential courses. El Pomar’s requirement that courses be related to STEM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) also gave direction for development.
“We don’t have data or background on what kinds of camps are popular, so we’ll start with these camps and build from there,” Moore said. “We really want it to be successful and get people involved … The goal is to make this sustainable so that when El Pomar funding ends, we can continue to offer these camps.”
Throughout middle and high school, students who complete multiple camps here or elsewhere accumulate scholarship money to pay for future courses at CNCC, Colorado Mountain College (CMC), Western Colorado Community College (WCCC) or Colorado Mesa University (CMU). From there, organizers hope, graduates will choose to practice their professions locally, in or near the place that trained them.
“We call this a pipeline,” said WCCC Director of Student Services Heather Exby, who coordinates partnerships among participating schools. “Beginning as early as elementary or middle school, we help students get a taste for education and college. They continue on through concurrent education, and ultimately, our hope is that they go to one of our four institutions via these scholarship dollars.”
Since the program’s inception, Exby said, participant numbers have skyrocketed, from just a handful three years ago to 380 middle and high school students across the four schools last year.
All El Pomar grant and scholarship dollars must be matched by colleges or their foundations, which provides extra incentive to find sustainable programs over time.
“Ultimately, (matching) is a great tool for sustainability,” she said. “El Pomar dollars may not be there forever, and schools have to have an investment in the outcome. They have to be able to continue funding it in the future.”
All four Western Slope schools have different “Reach Your Peak” summer offerings. Students who join a camp at one college can take other schools’ courses, which, this year alone, range from cooking to animation basics to virtual welding the same summer or in subsequent years.
Registration forms will be sent home from the middle and high schools in coming weeks. Interested parents or students can contact Moore at 675-3205 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to register. Scholarships for camp costs are also available.
To learn more about all of the Reach Your Peak summer camps, go to www.reachyourpeakcolorado.org.