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This after-school reading club helps emerging bilingual students

Over the past few years Jessica Grant Van Lankvelt, a literacy interventionist at Alicia Sanchez Elementary School, noticed many students who are emerging bilingual did not have opportunities to practice reading in English. Sometimes parents are literate in different languages or they work evening hours which makes them unavailable to support their student’s literacy during the week.

This can make it hard for these students to progress in their English literacy skills as quickly as their monolingual English peers.

Jessica Grant Van Lankvelt
Literacy Interventionist at Alicia Sanchez Elementary School

Jessica wanted to level the playing field and provide these students opportunities to grow as readers. She received an Academic Opportunity Fund grant from Impact on Education to start an after-school reading club to support these students. The grant funding allows the school to pay staff to run the program.

How does the reading club work?

17 emerging bilingual students in 1st through 3rd grades participate in the Reading Club program after school. Each week students practice reading and listening with program volunteers. Over 20 volunteers – both students from Peak to Peak Charter School and adults from the community – support the program.

Reading Club provides students with opportunities to practice reading in English. They also get to practice newly learned literacy skills with volunteers who can give immediate, corrective feedback. Volunteers also read books of the students’ choice to them, helping their oral language and vocabulary, which are necessary for reading comprehension. Both the acts of practicing reading and listening to proficient readers read aloud are important for growing strong readers.

I just love the energy of the students and watching how they gain competency over time. And I enjoy building relationships with them through reading, which is something I personally love to do.

Nancy L., Reading Club Volunteer

Empowering young students

At the end of the school year Jessica will be able to see the progress these students have made on their school assessments. But in just a few weeks they’ve already seen some students build stronger accuracy and fluency. “Students feel empowered and like they are part of a team,” she says. “And their parents have been very supportive and encouraged by the extra help given to their students.”

I have noticed that my child has made a lot of progress and she has more retention in her reading.

Parent of Reading Club participant at Alicia Sanchez Elementary

This weekly program allows struggling readers to experience the joy of books and learn about the world around them. Students also see how their practice with volunteers is helping to build their reading skills, building confidence in their reading.

Engaging students in learning 

Our Academic Opportunity Fund provides educators and schools with the resources they need to bridge the opportunity gap. 

We offered two rounds of funding during the 2023-24 school year and awarded $154,680 across 141 grants.

From tutoring and equipment to field trip fees and newcomer student support, these grants expand access to resources and opportunities for BVSD students. Supporters like you allow us to provide these impactful grants to educators across the district, making a difference in students’ lives. 

You can help by making a gift to support our work or becoming an Impact on Education volunteer and helping review grant applications like Jessica’s next year!

BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Please Note: Our second (and final) educator grant funding cycle for the school year closes on January 26, 2024. Click here to learn more.

A history of grants and growth

Since its inception, Impact on Education has stood as a pillar of support for educators in the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). Our commitment to enriching academic experiences has a history that spans nearly four decades.

Starting in 1986, with an initiative to empower educators through mini-grants, we’ve continued to evolve our grant program to meet the ever-changing needs of schools and students. This evolution is a testament to our dedication to creating opportunity for students and leveling the educational playing field.

The history of Impact on Education educator grants

1986
The Foundation for Boulder Valley Schools (now Impact on Education) began awarding mini-grants to BVSD educators, later known as Classroom Innovation Grants.

2004
Impact on Education launched a new Opportunity Fund to reduce economic barriers to academic opportunities and enrichment for students. Funds paid for expenses such as art supplies, instrument rentals, sports physicals, class fees, and more.

2019
Through a partnership with Pathways to Jazz, Impact on Education provided $10,000 in grants to music educators at schools across BVSD. Impact on Education continued awarding Classroom Innovation Grants to educators.

2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Impact on Education merged the Opportunity Fund and Classroom Innovation Grants programs to create a Student Academic Support Fund. Funds covered class fees, technology needs, supplemental equipment, transportation expenses, instrument rentals and repair, and other student academic needs.

“It’s remarkable to see the ingenuity and passion BVSD educators bring to their grant applications, all in the pursuit of enriching their students’ educational journeys. I volunteer to review grants because I believe they’re a vote of confidence for our teachers and can uplift the entire school community.”

Laura Arentsen, Impact on Education volunteer

2021 to Present – Academic Opportunity Fund

Launched in 2021, our Academic Opportunity Fund allows educators and schools across the district to request funds for the resources they need. Over the past three years we’ve awarded $615,113 across 368 grants, with more than 80% of our 56 schools applying for at least one grant.

Each grant has a story behind it – from providing essential resources for hands-on science projects to ensuring equitable access to tutoring supports, technology licenses, books, and more.

Today, we prioritize requests that expand access to resources, opportunities, and support for students from marginalized and underserved communities. And we involve trained community volunteers in our grant review process.

On the horizon

Our grant program will continue to evolve, just as the needs of our educators and students do. With the upcoming January 26, 2024 deadline in our current funding cycle, we’re excited to see what new projects and innovative resources our educators will share with us. 

We’re proud of how this program continues to empower educators to meet the evolving needs of BVSD students.

Together, we are making a tangible difference in the lives of BVSD students, one grant at a time.

BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

IOE grants provide $80,0000 to empower BVSD educators

In our first Academic Opportunity Fund funding round of the 2023-24 school year we’ve awarded nearly $80,000 to 74 educators in 33 schools, with an average award of over $800. The program received 105 applications from 37 schools across the Boulder Valley School District which were reviewed by trained community volunteers.

Grants for classroom educators and schools are small yet powerful tools that can help fund creative and innovative ideas for educational projects, activities, and materials. Our Academic Opportunity Fund is a valuable resource for teachers and schools with limited budgets who are determined to provide the best learning opportunities for their students.

After-school tutoring and outreach programs

We received a variety of requests for supplemental instruction across the district. A Boulder middle school with a strong connection to their Spanish-speaking families will receive funding to build new bilingual resources in support of their special education programming.

Additional grants we are funding include:

Reading support

Many BVSD educators sought support for improving students’ reading engagement and ability. One notable request was to expand an online/virtual reading intervention program for 4th and 5th grade students who are reading below grade level. This program – Really Great Reading – works to increase reading proficiency for students before they head to middle school. This year, our funds will help the program expand to BVSD’s bilingual schools, supporting over 200 students at 16 elementary schools.

Additional grants we’re funding include: 

The impact of educator grants

From multiplication games to cello strings to unified PE equipment, our Academic Opportunity Fund continues to fill specific needs beyond the traditional classroom budget. We are impressed by the dedication and innovation of our BVSD educators and wish we could fund more of the terrific ideas proposed. 

So far this year, our grants will impact an estimated 20,000 students and help increase access to resources and opportunities across the district.

The next round of Academic Opportunity Fund grants will open in December 2023.

BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

How BVSD Wellness Centers support student resilience

A safe space to spend your off-period, a refuge during an anxiety attack, a place to connect with your friends – these are just a few of the reasons students are visiting Wellness Centers across Boulder Valley School District.

BVSD created its first Wellness Center at Monarch High School in response to the Marshall Fire. When we saw the impact the Wellness Center had on their school community we committed to opening five more and sustaining the one at Monarch. Impact on Education funding is now supporting six high school Wellness Centers at Boulder High, Centaurus High, Fairview High, Monarch High, Nederland Middle-Senior and New Vista High.

One month into the school year, over 1,000 students have made over 2,320 visits to BVSD Wellness Centers to relax, refocus and seek support.

In 2021, 42 percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless regularly for at least a two-week period that they stopped doing their normal daily activities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is a Wellness Center?

The Wellness Centers are welcoming and calming spaces with soft lighting and relaxing music. They are filled with flexible, comfortable seating and sensory activities like fidget toys, puzzles and kinetic sand. Each Wellness Center also offers free tea for students, courtesy of The Tea Spot

But the most important part of each Wellness Center is the mental health professional, a Mental Health Advocate, there to support each student who walks through the door.

One Mental Health Advocate described their Wellness Center as “a cozy cafe,” while students shared that they like “the vibe” and having a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of their school.

“Students have shared that it feels special to them. They are torn between telling everyone how awesome it feels to relax in the room and wanting to keep it a secret.”

– Mental Health Advocate, BVSD Wellness Center

The goal of the Wellness Centers is to provide students with accessible, safe spaces on school campuses that offer mental health support and promote social-emotional wellness. Students are able to visit the Wellness Center anytime during the school day to rest and recharge, connect with their peers, or talk with a trusted mental health professional.

How Wellness Centers are impacting school communities

The Mental Health Advocates leading BVSD Wellness Centers say they’ve been surprised and excited by students’ willingness to share and open up when they are in a crisis. One was also surprised by the reactions of their school staff, sharing that “so many teachers have reached out to tell me they appreciate having a safe place to send students instead of them going home or disappearing to the bathroom.”

We asked the Mental Health Advocates why students have been visiting and it was commonly to:

And often, while a student may start visiting for one reason, they continue going for another. One student who started visiting because it was a safe place to spend her off period, was eventually comfortable opening up about a difficult personal experience she was going through.

Students need support to manage their emotional health. The Mental Health Advocates can help teach them how, while the Wellness Centers give them the space to do so.

“We’re funding these Wellness Centers across Boulder Valley School District because we believe they’re powerful tools for supporting our youth and helping them thrive.”

– Allison Billings, Executive Director of Impact on Education

Reducing the stigma of mental health

So far this school year thousands of students have already visited BVSD Wellness Centers and schools will continue to build awareness of these new spaces in their school communities. The next step for Impact on Education is to supplement the Wellness Centers with meaningful opportunities for parents to engage and gain tools and resources to support their students at home.

BVSD is also creating “a continuum of services” for all students and has a robust offering of mental health resources available to BVSD students and their families.

BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Tutoring provides students access to critical support and resources

One important way we maximize the impact of our work is by collaborating with other nonprofits to amplify our work. 

We first partnered with the Arly Kruse Educational Foundation in 2021 to facilitate a $30,000 investment in targeted in-school and after school catch up tutoring for students at Alicia Sanchez Elementary School and Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer Elementary. Since then, they continue to support Impact on Education and BVSD students by funding tutoring across all grade levels.

Our strategic partnership

The Arly Kruse Educational Foundation aims to enhance the education of children from diverse backgrounds through academic support and tutoring free of cost to Boulder Valley School District families. The Foundation’s namesake was a lifelong educator with a belief in the power of tutoring.

As the Foundation for Boulder Valley’s public schools, Impact on Education is uniquely positioned to help identify schools and students with tutoring needs. Our partnership allows the Arly Kruse Educational Foundation to bring their resources to the students who need them most. 

During the 2022-23 school year, the Arly Kruse Educational Foundation funded nine Academic Opportunity Fund grant requests, providing over $23,000 in tutoring.

The value of tutoring

Tutoring is a great way to offer students additional learning opportunities, reinforce classroom learning and build confidence. It also helps educators and schools address learning differences and abilities, providing interventions and opportunities for the students who need them.

Tutoring is an effective way to provide guidance and support to help students overcome obstacles and grow academically. Our partnership with Impact on Education allows us to provide a little help and individual attention to the BVSD students who need it most.

Jack Kruse, Founder of the Arly Kruse Educational Foundation

By funding Academic Opportunity Fund grants the Arly Kruse Educational Foundation provided:

Continued support during the 2023-24 school year

Funding tutoring across all grade levels enhances the education of many BVSD students. Providing this academic tutoring free of cost ensures students, regardless of their background or circumstances, have access to the same support and resources as their peers.

For the coming school year, our Academic Opportunity Fund and partnership with the Arly Kruse Educational Foundation will continue to help students access the resources they need to succeed.

BEFORE YOU GO

Impact on Education is an independent non-profit supporting the Boulder Valley School District. We depend on the support of our community to put our mission into action. Will you help us provide opportunities and resources to marginalized students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Community conversation brings youth mental health to the forefront

Young people today are experiencing a mental health crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before. Nearly one in five youth in Colorado reported poor mental health in 2021 — double the rate seen in 2017. Social media, the pandemic, and climate change were just some of the external pressures students and parents cited during A Community Conversation: Supporting the Mental Health of Our Youth, a panel discussion that gathered more than 300 people at Manhattan Middle School on April 12, 2023. 

Panelists included clinicians, community health professionals, educators, and people with lived experiences. All agreed that the conversation starter was an important step toward equipping the community with information that can bridge the generational divides and produce healthy dialog that will lead to solutions.

Impact on Education hosted the event in collaboration with UnitedHealthcare, Centura Health, Comcast, The Colorado Health Foundation, and Boulder Valley School District. 

“Impact on Education is committed to providing an elevated level of mental health support for all BVSD students. Beyond what we can provide during the school day, engaging families and the community is a crucial part of supporting student mental health and well-being.”

– Allison Billings, Executive Director at Impact on Education

Watch with English captions

Why we need to talk about mental health

According to the CDC, it is estimated that one in five children ages 3-17 experience a mental disorder each year, the most common of which are ADHD, anxiety, behavioral problems, and depression. The CDC reports that in 2021, 42 percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless regularly, for at least a two-week period, that they stopped doing their normal daily activities. Furthermore, a CDC study states that compared with pre-pandemic levels, teenagers are more likely to experience persistent feelings of distress or malaise that interfere in their lives. They are more likely to think about suicide and more likely to attempt it.

How the community can support our youth

The event presented the idea that, together, the community can elevate the mental health and well-being of our youth. Panelists discussed the current risks facing our youth; techniques for communicating with children about their mental health needs; and school, community, and health care resources available to parents. Information about local and state trends, as well as the risks, influencing factors, and available supports were shared with the audience, primarily parents of students in BVSD. 

“Fostering resilient children requires engagement with their families, friends, mentors, and the community. At UnitedHealthcare, we felt privileged to be an organizing sponsor of this important event with our partners at Impact on Education and the Boulder Valley School District.”

– Marc Neely, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Colorado & Wyoming

Discussions also included clinical expertise on trends; resources available to parents; and how to start and sustain mental health conversations with kids. 

To access resources distributed at the event click here. For those who were unable to attend the event, Comcast is producing a television special which will be available for viewing online soon.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Together we can elevate the mental health of our youth. Impact on Education is committed to the mental health of BVSD students. Your gift helps provide Wellness Centers and Mental Health Advocates in schools, and resources and training to support the well-being of staff, students and their families.

How educator grants made a difference this year

Grants for classroom educators and schools are small yet powerful tools that can help fund creative and innovative ideas for educational projects, activities, and materials. Our Academic Opportunity Fund is a valuable resource for teachers and schools with limited budgets, but who are determined to provide the best learning opportunities for their students. 

In the 2022-23 school year we offered three rounds of grant funding that awarded $230,000 across 166 individual grants

The program received over 220 grant applications from 45 schools across the Boulder Valley School District.

Opportunities for creativity and innovation

When educators are given the chance to apply for Academic Opportunity Fund grants, they are encouraged to think outside of the box and come up with new and exciting ways to engage their students. Grants this year provided funding for:

Helping bridge the funding gap

With limited school budgets, Academic Opportunity Fund grants bridge the funding gap for both educators and schools by providing additional resources that enhance the learning experience for students. This funding can help make classes more relevant and engaging and lead to improved student outcomes.

In addition to common requests such as books, tutors, and software, grants also provided funding for:

Improving student outcomes

The Academic Opportunity Fund supports everything from classroom enrichment and virtual tutoring to field trips and books – anything that helps provide valuable educational experiences to BVSD students.

Our grants will reopen in the fall for the 2023-24 school year to support educators and students in BVSD.

Why we need to talk about youth mental health

Supporting mental health for our students and youth is a crucial part of our education system. Mental health has a significant impact on a student’s academic performance, social interactions, and overall well-being, and unfortunately mental health challenges have skyrocketed among children and teenagers. 

It is estimated that one in five children ages 3-17 experience a mental disorder in a given year, the most common of which are ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression. And in 2021, 42 percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless regularly for at least a two-week period that they stopped doing their normal daily activities.

COVID-19 disruptions impact youth mental health

When schools closed in March 2020, no one knew how remote instruction and limited access to student support services would impact students. The disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to have significant, long-term impacts on a variety of youth outcomes. Early research indicates decreased rates of focus, attention and sleep, and increased clinginess, fear, and irritability among youth.

The pandemic and school closures also disrupted school-related supports and services that are fundamental to children’s development and well-being. A recent study surveyed 1,504 U.S. parents to determine the impact of the pandemic on the social-emotional well-being and educational needs of their school-aged children during the 2021–2022 academic year. Results indicated that:

Compared with pre-pandemic levels, teenagers are more likely to experience persistent feelings of distress or malaise that interfere in their lives. They are more likely to think about suicide and more likely to attempt it.

The Guardian

The majority of parents (83.5%) reported a school-related need, with 57% reporting mental health challenges and 77% reporting learning supports and enrichment needs. Parents reported their child’s highest priority needs to be for tutoring, socialization, increased instructional time, managing stress, and physical activity.

Not only is suicide the third-leading cause of death for youth ages 15–19, but one in four adolescents age 12 to 17 have had a substance use disorder or a major depressive episode in the past year.

While the pandemic disrupted normal routines and social interaction, our community has also experienced a mass shooting and a destructive wildfire in recent years, making it even more critical for schools and parents to prioritize mental health support for our youth.

How we are supporting the mental health of BVSD students

One of the most promising mental health interventions is school-based services. Within BVSD, students have access to counselors, Mental Health Advocates, and other engagement specialists for social-emotional and behavioral support, student achievement and crisis intervention, individual and group counseling, and referrals to external resources. To expand BVSD’s ability to support students and their families, Impact on Education has:

Another important element of support is educating students and their families about mental health and reducing stigma. Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in supporting their children’s mental health.

Many students may feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help for their mental health concerns, and many parents don’t know how to communicate with their children about mental health. By providing mental health training and educational resources for students, families and BVSD staff, we hope to help reduce this stigma and encourage students to seek the support they need.

“Schools, families and teens themselves have an important role to play to address this crisis and they are eager to find tools that can make a difference.”

Mental Health First Aid

Next month we are hosting a free mental health panel discussion for parents. In partnership with BVSD, Centura Health, Comcast, and UnitedHealthcare, Impact on Education will gather clinicians, BVSD educators and administrators, community health professionals and people with lived experiences, for “A Community Conversation: Supporting the Mental Health of our Youth.” Panelists will discuss the current mental health risks facing youth, techniques for communicating with children about their mental health needs, resources available to parents, and more.

Join us on Wednesday, April 12 >>

Building a better future

Impact on Education is working to raise both the awareness and funds needed to address youth mental health as we would any other physical illness. Mental health issues are increasingly prevalent among children and teenagers, and we can all help create a community that prioritizes the mental health of our youth.

By helping students feel safe and supported at school and offering support to those most likely to positively influence someone at risk, we’re bringing mental health out of the shadows.

Browse BVSD’s mental health resources
https://www.bvsd.org/parents-students/health-and-wellness/mental-health

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

Funding mental health and student well-being

Immediately after the Marshall Fire, mental health professionals from surrounding school districts came to BVSD to work with impacted students and families. During this time, it became apparent that providing students with ongoing mental health support during the school day was the most effective way for Impact on Education to support their recovery.

Since January 2022 we’ve worked closely with BVSD staff to continue providing this additional level of support, which includes:

BVSD’s first wellness center

At Monarch High School, where 1 in 10 students was impacted by the Marshall Fire, a Wellness Center was created to support students in August 2022. Staffed by a full-time counselor, the Wellness Center provides students a safe place to recharge and speak with a trained professional during the school day. 

Wellness Center Impact
August – December 2022

How Mental Health Advocates are supporting students and families

Mental Health Advocates (MHAs) focus exclusively on mental and behavioral health, supplementing what BVSD school counselors can provide. Within BVSD, MHAs:

The intensity of mental health concerns and the time required to provide support and intervention varies dramatically from case to case. The additional MHAs ensure the schools impacted by the Marshall Fire have the intensive layer of mental health support needed, and expand the district’s capacity to respond to mental health needs.

Mental Health Advocate Impact

August – December 2022

Our funding priorities

Impact on Education is committed to providing an elevated level of mental health support for all students, especially those affected by the Marshall Fire. Meeting these three goals would allow us to serve 11,698 students at 12 schools across BVSD:

  1. Scaling the Wellness Center program by replicating the model to offer it at 5 BVSD high schools
  2. Retaining four MHAs supporting through the 2023-24 school year
  3. Providing mental health training and educational resources for students, families, and staff

Join us to ensure students have mental health supports available during the school day.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

Why our Marshall Fire support continues

In early 2022, we began supporting the immediate and long-term recovery of the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) students and educators affected by the Marshall Fire. Our work has provided:

To see a full summary, please visit our Crisis Response page.

Prioritizing mental health

Immediately after the fire, mental health professionals from surrounding school districts came to BVSD to work with impacted students and families. During this time, we saw that providing students with mental health support during the school day was the most effective way to support their recovery. 

We worked closely with BVSD staff to continue providing an additional level of support. Impact on Education quickly enabled BVSD to hire four additional Mental Health Advocates (MHAs).

The new MHAs were hired in the spring of 2022 to support BVSD’s most impacted schools. They provided over 130 consultations and direct support to 93 families and 359 individuals and directed families to additional resources from Impact on Education, BVSD, and community partners, including:

Our partners with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy shared that six months after a disaster is often when the financial and emotional realities begin to sink in. Knowing these important moments would happen over the summer break, we allocated funding to ensure two MHAs could work over the summer to support 330 students.

Providing support during the 2022-23 school year

Mental Health

The MHAs continue to provide services at our most fire-affected schools. They provide students with consultations, family support, individual counseling, and support groups. MHAs also support the district Trauma Response teams and facilitate Resilience in Schools and Educators (RISE) sessions for educators and staff.

Financial and academic support

Early in the school year, we learned that families were continuing to experience or experiencing new financial challenges. We worked with BVSD to provide a way for families to request additional support, and are providing funding to cover the costs of school meals, transportation expenses to and from school, free virtual tutoring, and after school care.

Our work is not done

We know the needs of our community will continue and change through the 2023-24 school year. We are currently working on multiple ways to continue expanding the mental health services and resources available to both students and their families.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

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303.524.3865

Impact on Education
721 Front Street, Suite A
Louisville, CO 80027

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