Bright Futures: Summer Education

The Denver Foundation

Soon after her great-granddaughter,Jayley, came to live with her, Judy realized that the little girl struggled as a reader. When Jayley entered second grade at John Amesse Elementary School in Montbello, her reading level was scored at that of a kindergartner’s.

When the school year ended, Jayley was reading at a first-grade level. Her progress was encouraging. So Judy was thrilled to enroll Jayley in Scholars Unlimited, a free program that helps children grow as learners during the summer months. The intensive, personalized intervention was designed to accelerate Jayley’s progress. It turned out to be just what she needed.

“It was part-way through the program and Jayley was reading aloud to me,” says Judy. “Honestly, I was just sitting there with my mouth hanging open. I couldn’t believe how she just zipped through those books.”

Scholars Unlimited, which was founded as Summer Scholars by Denver Foundation donor Cyndi Kahn in 1993, provides year-round programming to first through fourth graders at select Denver Public Schools.

The “summer slide” disproportionally affects students from low-income families, whose higher income peers tend to make slight gains during the summer.The program helps students like Jayley avoid the “summer slide” – wherein some students fall behind in reading and math. The “summer slide” disproportionally affects students from low-income families, whose higher income peers tend to make slight gains during the summer. This phenomenon widens the achievement gap and makes it harder for struggling students to catch up.

Most kids in Scholars Unlimited come from families with low incomes; more than half live in single-parent households in which, often, English is spoken and read as a second language.

Scholars Unlimited expands and enhances these students’ circles of natural supports to boost learning and academic achievement and give each child a more equitable chance at a bright future.

Scholars Unlimited is one of many organizations in Metro Denver that help young people stay engaged, build skills, and thrive during the summer. Some also focus on literacy while others provide opportunities to develop leadership, build self-esteem and relationships, and just have some fun.

Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, for example, offers everything from small-business workshops to CSI-style forensics classes for girls-only groups. Nature organizations including CityWILD and Big City Mountaineers take city kids kayaking and rock climbing in rivers and on mountains, environments that may be totally new to them. At The Center on Colfax Avenue, students in the Rainbow Alley Stepping Out Summer Program visit farms, museums, and universities while exploring issues of particular interest to GLBT youth.

Whatever their mission, summer programs cut into long hours, days, and weeks that can lead to boredom, learning loss, and risky behavior: For teenagers, the 100 days between Memorial Day and the start of the school year are the most dangerous of the year.

Every year, The Denver Foundation and its donors give generously to these and other educationrelated organizations and programs. In fact, 21 percent of our donor-influenced gifts in 2016 went to education, more than any other category.

Donor support for The Fund for Denver makes possible the Foundation’s own education initiatives including Common Sense Discipline, which seeks to keep kids in school and learning, and out of the school-to-prison pipeline, through the school year and beyond.

When all children receive a highquality education, we can build a better future for everyone, including children like Jayley. Thanks to support from the community, she faces a better school year ahead.

“Jayley made more progress over the six-week summer program than she did during the entire school year“

"Jayley made more progress over the six-week summer program than she did during the entire school year,” says Margie Miller, a reading interventionist at Jayley’s school.

This fall, Jayley will start the school year with a reading level that’s up ten points from the previous year. “What that means is if you work hard and apply yourself, you can make great strides, which means you can be anything you want to be,” Judy says of her great-granddaughter. “It means that your future is unlimited.”

The core asset of The Fund for Denver is our permanent endowment.The Fund for Denver is made up of a variety of charitable assets that have been entrusted to The Denver Foundation for investment management and strategic grantmaking. Our permanent endowment is made up of unrestricted gifts to The Denver Foundation to meet the needs of today and ensure there are resources for building a better Denver far into the future.

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