Cultivating compassion: How a former BVSD student is shaping the future of healthcare

Colorado is struggling to overcome a nursing shortage that worsened during the pandemic. As the state’s population ages, Colorado will need 10,000 more nurses in the next decade, according to projections.

Thanks to a scholarship from Impact on Education, the state will need one fewer nurse. Boulder High School graduate Adriana Aguirre, a recipient of the Earl & Barbara Bolton scholarship, represents the future of nursing with her big dreams of diversifying the industry and providing culturally competent care to her patients.

Overcoming financial and educational barriers

Aguirre, a University of Colorado in Denver student, recently finished her first year of college. She spent the year living in a dorm with other students, something she never envisioned for herself growing up. “As a child, my parents faced a lot of financial insecurities,” shared Aguirre. “As I got older and started thinking about college, I didn’t think it would be an option for me.”

Known in high school to be a quiet leader and role model for those around her, Aguirre was determined to find a way to continue her education, applying for and receiving the Impact on Education scholarship. Aguirre was awarded $20,000 towards college expenses, through the $5,000 scholarship that she is able to renew for up to four years.

“I have always had a passion for helping others, I love to serve and give back to my community.”

Adriana Aguirre

Building a support system

Once she overcame the challenge of funding her education, Aguirre encountered new obstacles as a first-generation college student. “The level of independence and responsibility I needed was more than I expected,” said Aguirre. “My parents don’t know what college is like, so I wasn’t able to ask them, ‘How does this work?’” Always persistent, Aguirre leaned into the support systems offered by the university and credits her successful first year to utilizing professor office hours and the campus tutoring center.

She also formed relationships with her TRIO mentor and her dorm roommate, who Aguirre will live with again next school year. “It helped to relate and bond with other students who have similar backgrounds or are first generation,” she said. “My roommate became my best friend.”

Aspirations for a diverse and inclusive healthcare future

Though challenging, the academic rigor of college was easier to overcome for Aguirre. Her favorite classes were the three science labs needed for her major—she loved hands-on learning. Continuing in nursing next year, Aguirre is excited to become a bilingual nurse who will bridge the communication gap and create connection and trust with her patients, especially those who speak Spanish.

“I have always had a passion for helping others, I love to serve and give back to my community,” said Aguirre. She also hopes to inspire future students of color to consider a nursing career, underscoring the need for increased diversity in healthcare. 

Aguirre says she would describe her future as “hopeful” and is grateful for her scholarship. “This scholarship for students like me isn’t just about paying for college,” said Aguirre. “It opens doors to better jobs and careers that will have a lifelong impact and possibly help future generations.”

We’re so excited to see what Aguirre accomplishes in her sophomore 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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Higher property taxes don’t provide extra funding for public education

As homeowners in our community see their property values and tax bills increase, many may assume the additional funds are flowing into our public schools. They’re not wrong – but increases in local property taxes don’t equate to increases in funding for the Boulder Valley School District. The reality of how school funding works is more complex.

What is the School Finance Act?

While Colorado recently passed a new school funding formula, for the past 30 years the Public School Finance Act of 1994 determined the total amount of funding each school district received. 

This calculation considered several factors – including per pupil amounts, funded pupil count, district and student characteristics, and a budget stabilization – to determine the “total program” funding for the school district. For the 2023-24 school year the district received $292,817,683 in “total program” funding.

BVSD received $10,489 for each full-time student – $3,858 less than the national average – in the 2023-24 school year. 

U.S. Census Bureau

In this article BVSD shares details about how declining enrollment and changes at the state level will affect schools, students and educators across the District.

How school funding is calculated today

School funding is a blend of local sources – property taxes and vehicle registrations – and state sources (state equalization). Local sources are considered “first in,” meaning they are used first to fund the “Total Program” amount set by the School Finance Act. State equalization funds then make up the remainder.

Although the state determines individual school district funding levels, the amount contributed from the three different sources varies according to local assessed property valuation.

As property taxes increase, due to a fixed mill levy (27.0 mills for BVSD) and rising assessed property values, the amount provided by the state decreases.

Because of higher assessed valuation, BVSD receives a larger portion of its revenue from local property taxes. You can see in the 2023-24 budget chart below that the state contribution for BVSD is less than peer districts.

Source: 2023-24 Proposed BVSD Budget

These mechanisms ensure that the “Total Program” funding remains constant, adhering to the balance intended by the School Finance Act, regardless of fluctuations in local property tax revenues. And the state’s contribution helps bridge the gap between wealthier and less affluent districts, so every student has access to an adequate education regardless of their district’s property tax base.

We need partners like Impact on Education, whose support addresses the funding gaps and enhances the educational experiences of BVSD students.

– Dr. Rob Anderson, BVSD Superintendent

By the numbers

Recent increases in funding for BVSD are due to changes in the School Finance Act formula, not changes in property taxes. Over the past few years, the state stabilization factor has decreased and inflation has increased, driving up the amount of “Total Program” funding for BVSD. 

BVSD also receives additional operating revenue through three mill levy overrides, which are property tax increases approved by voters. An additional property tax levy provides resources for capital debt payments for construction programs.

Why this is important

School district budgets are complex and there are many funding mechanisms – including legislation and ballot measures – that influence the resources provided to BVSD. And this complexity is why Impact on Education was founded in 1983 – to protect BVSD from the uncertainties of local and state funding. 

While BVSD navigates these challenges, Impact on Education is here to help

Your support for Impact on Education helps ensure we’re able to continue providing supplemental funding and resources to support the needs of students in our community, which prevail regardless of state and local funding. 

You can help by making a gift to support our work and sharing this post with someone in our community.

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

2024 Impact Awards honor dedicated BVSD educators

View event photos on Facebook

We host the Impact Awards each year to honor educators across the Boulder Valley School District. Recognizing their dedication is essential, as they play a vital role in providing excellent and equitable education to students.

While we’re only able to recognize a small number of BVSD educators at the Impact Awards, we value and appreciate the hard work and dedication of every educator across BVSD.

This year’s celebration was held on Thursday, May 2 at the Boulder JCC. The energy at the event was palpable and it was a memorable occasion for all of our honorees and award winners. This year we were honored to have the event emceed by Dr. Lora de la Cruz, Deputy Superintendent of BVSD, with special remarks by Dr. Rob Anderson, BVSD Superintendent.

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who make the evening go so smoothly and to our generous sponsors – Premier Members Credit Union, BVEA, Comcast, Corden Pharma and the Daily Camera – who make this event possible.

School Honorees

Since 1993, the Impact Awards has recognized hundreds of educators – teachers, custodians, office managers, food service employees, crossing guards, and more – from each school across BVSD. Each school across the district selects an honoree for the event, someone who is going above and beyond and making an extraordinary impact on student learning.

Each honoree received an engraved award, a personalized poster and a $100 check (thank you sponsors!). You can meet all of this year’s honorees in the graphics below.

New Teacher Award

The 2024 Imogene Maxon New Teacher Award was presented to Ash Mattys, an English Language Arts teacher at Fairview High School.

Established in 2020, the award is given to educators with up to three years of classroom experience who demonstrate the drive, stamina, and vision of a career educator. This award is inspired and financially supported by Jean Maxon, a lifetime educator who left a legacy gift to Impact on Education and whose own legacy extends beyond the BVSD classroom. We’re fortunate to have wonderful educators joining the profession, many of whom embody the characteristics and traits of a lifelong educator.

The nominator of this year’s winner — her induction mentor Chris Barnes — shared that she is approachable and real, a player and a coach, and life-affecting. He said “when you’re in Ash’s class, one is quick to forget that we’re in an English class. If you don’t keep an eye open, you’ll swear you’re in an after-school student club, self-help seminar, college literary society, and journalistic roundtable all rolled into one. Ash asks her students to think boldly and to act boldly, like she does. I’m honored and proud to teach with her.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

The 2024 Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Sara McIntosh, a literacy interventionist at Emerald Elementary School.

Established in 2017, the Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award honors the legacy of one of our most fervent supporters, Blake Peterson. This award recognizes and celebrates an individual who, consistently over the course of decades, catalyzes positive change within Boulder Valley School District, and whose own passion for education and learning mirrors that of the award’s namesake. This award is financially supported and selected by the Peterson family.

One of the nominators of this year’s winner shared that “she is a voice and support for the many children in our school who too often slip through the cracks because of lack of home support, resources, or other reasons beyond their control.”

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Emerald Elementary’s Sara McIntosh honored with the 2024 Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award

By Alison Meyer

There is a pivotal point in a child’s education when they stop learning to read and start reading to learn. As a literacy interventionist at Emerald Elementary School, Sara McIntosh is deeply invested in this crucial juncture. So much so that she’s dedicated her life to making sure all children grow up to be confident readers. 

“When a person can read to learn, they become consumers of information, informed citizens, and can access any type of information they want,” shared McIntosh. “It’s incredibly empowering.”

A legacy of learning

Raised in a family of educators — her mom was a preschool, kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and her dad was a social studies teacher and football coach — McIntosh learned the value of education early on. “When I was in school, my mom worked part-time as a teacher and was also the puppet lady,” McIntosh recalled. “She would make and sew all of her own puppets, write scripts and perform at all the elementary schools. She made learning fun. Because of her, I fell in love with reading in school.”

“When a person can read to learn, they become consumers of information, informed citizens, and can access any type of information they want.”

Like her parents, McIntosh became a teacher, dedicating 30 years of service to the Boulder Valley School District. Four years ago, she moved to supporting literacy efforts, providing targeted, specific instruction to small groups of children struggling with reading. Lighting up when she talks about her work, McIntosh sees reading as a tool for equity.

“My life’s mission is empowering others, particularly children who are still learning how to find their own way in the world,” she said. “Reading helps them find their voice. They can’t be truly independent if they can’t confidently read.”

This video about Sara was produced by students in the Boulder TEC Video Production Program.

Impacting a generation of learners

At a young age, children learn to read by being taught the patterns and rules so they can break the code. By second or third grade, they need a strong foundation to transition to reading to learn. Interventionists like McIntosh play a crucial role in ensuring young readers who struggle get on track before they fall too far behind. McIntosh, who goes above and beyond for her students, was recently awarded the 2024 Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Fellow interventionist and nominator Jamie Smith shared, “Sara takes her role as title literacy interventionist very seriously. She is a voice and support for the many children in our school who too often slip through the cracks because of a lack of home support, resources or other reasons beyond their control. If a student is in need, she will go out of her way to advocate for resources or time for them.”

“[Sara] is a voice and support for the many children in our school who too often slip through the cracks because of a lack of home support, resources or other reasons beyond their control.”

Established in 2017, the Blake Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award honors the legacy of one of Impact on Education’s most fervent supporters, Blake Peterson. This award recognizes and celebrates an individual who consistently catalyzes positive change within Boulder Valley School District over the course of decades and whose passion for education and learning mirrors that of the award’s namesake.

Blake, who deeply valued education and devoted his life to community service and supporting quality public education for all students, was also raised by teachers. McIntosh said by winning this award, she hopes to pay tribute to Blake’s parents. “I am so grateful that I had the upbringing that I had with parents as teachers, and so I want to honor Blake’s memory and his parents’ work,” shared McIntosh.

Above: Sara McIntosh (left) with one of her nominators and fellow educators Jamie Smith (right).

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Fairview High School’s Ash Mattys receives Imogene Maxon New Teacher Award

By Alison Meyer

Ash Mattys took the road less traveled, and it has made all the difference. 

Unlike most first-year teachers who join the profession directly after college, Mattys delayed getting her degree so she could see the world instead. While her peers moved into dorms, Mattys worked in corporate America, saving enough money to travel. Over the next sixteen years, she had many adventures, including living in Japan for six months and adopting eighteen freshwater stingrays. She also became a mom, leading her to decide she was ready to hunker down and get her degree. 

Mattys enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder, majoring in Communication. While figuring out her next steps in life, Mattys kept returning to her beloved 8th-grade teacher, Ms. Cardin. “She spoke to me like the budding human being I was at the time,” recalled Mattys. “She made me feel interesting. She saw me, and was passionate about connecting with me so that she could teach me.

It’s hard to think of anything more inspiring than how much she valued my education and the education of her countless other students.” Mattys realized she could play the same role for young people as Ms Cardin did for her, and from that point on, teaching became the goal. She enrolled in graduate school, earned her master’s in education, and was hired as an English teacher at Fairview High School.

Ash Mattys with her family

Ash Mattys with her family.

“Two roads diverged in a wood”

While it took her longer to become a teacher, Mattys believes every part of her journey was critical to her success. “All those steps were necessary — now I feel like the luckiest teacher of all time.” Her students are 9th and 10th-grade pre-IB students learning Shakespeare. But Mattys, inspired by Ms. Cardin, sees her job as more than teaching language arts. She’s there to ensure her students feel seen. “What I needed when I was their age was for someone to tell me that it was going to be okay,” shared Mattys. “I want them to know that I see their uniqueness and remind them that they are resilient. I feel like that’s the unwritten curriculum.” 

“I want them to know that I see their uniqueness and remind them that they are resilient. I feel like that’s the unwritten curriculum.”

Ash Mattys, English Language Arts teacher at Fairview High School

According to her mentor, fellow teacher and nominator Chris Barnes, Mattys is succeeding. “When you’re in Ash’s class, it’s easy to forget that you’re in an English class,” said Barnes.  “If you don’t keep an eye open, you’ll swear you’re in an after-school student club, self-help seminar, college literary society, and journalistic roundtable all rolled into one. Ash’s class is that special. Students are that valued. The flow of instruction and student participation is seamless. And the atmosphere is one in which you feel lucky to belong.”

Winning the Imogene Maxon New Teacher Award is especially validating for Mattys because she doesn’t feel like she fits the norm, both as a nontraditional first-year teacher and as an educator of color. “This honor means so much to me because I’ve had to do some difficult navigating, within myself and with others, to get here,” she shared.” There were so many points along this journey when I felt like this profession wasn’t for people like me and I felt like giving up. Somehow, I actually got here and I’m doing my dream job. I’m so grateful.” 

“I dwell in possibility” 

Not one to be satisfied with the status quo, Mattys has goals for the rest of her education career. She looks forward to perfecting her craft as a classroom manager and content deliverer. Mattys also wants to see more students of color in advanced classes. “I think it’s powerful that I am an educator of color, and students can envision themselves in my shoes,” said Mattys.

“I’d like to see the percentage of students of color in the school reflected in advanced classes, where we currently have a disparity.” She also co-leads Families and Educators Together, a group that creates a more inclusive community to support the well-being of all students and families, especially parents and guardians from underrepresented groups. 

“Ash’s class is that special. Students are that valued. The flow of instruction and student participation is seamless. And the atmosphere is one in which you feel lucky to belong.”

Chris Barnes, BVSD Induction Mentor

Barnes isn’t surprised Mattys is so future-focused. “Ash is nothing short of a breath of fresh air. Check that—she’s a hurricane of cleansing, rejuvenation and complete upending of all arcane models and notions of what makes an English teacher.”

Congratulations to Ash Mattys for winning the 2024 Imogene Maxon Early Educator Award.

About Imogene Maxon

Imogene Maxon was a lifelong educator who taught with the Boulder Valley School District. In 2020, Impact on Education received a bequest from her estate, creating the Imogene “Jean” Maxon New Teacher Award in her honor. Imogene believed strongly in the impact of teachers who spend a lifetime honing instruction and learning practices and positively impacting countless students within the classroom.

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

Announcing our 2024 scholarship recipients

Scholarships play a pivotal role in empowering students to pursue their educational dreams without the burden of financial constraints.

This year we provided over $53,500 in scholarships for Boulder Valley School District graduates, including $28,500 in scholarship renewals for 16 students. And graduating seniors in the Class of 2024 were awarded over $100,000!

Scholarships awarded to the Class of 2024 are all renewable for two to four years, with the potential to contribute $94,000 toward their post-secondary education.

Scholarship applications are reviewed by trained community volunteers, and student winners are selected based upon their academic achievement, financial need, and other eligibility requirements.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients!

*The Independent Order of the Odd Fellows and Panther Pride scholarship winners will be announced soon.

2024 Scholarship Winners

Houston Scholarship

New this year, the Houston scholarship honors a family member whose dedication to taking care of their family financially, meant they were unable to pursue their dream of formal education. The scholarship is awarded to students who demonstrate academic achievement and financial need, and each scholarship is renewable for up to four years.

$10,000
Kevin Botello, Boulder High

Kevin plans to study engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado School of Mines, or Regis University.

“As an engineer I believe I can help solve many different types of programs and help make the world a better place for all of us. There are so many issues that are currently facing us as humans and we can work through some of these challenges through engineering.”

$5,000
Jair Ortega, Boulder High

Jair plans to attend the University of Colorado Boulder.

“My educational goal of being a first generation college student is more than just something that’s personal to me. It is also a testament to the impact of determination, perseverance and hope has on defying expectation. Breaking down barriers of cultural and social limitations.”


Earl & Barbara Bolton Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded to a student who plans to pursue careers in engineering, forestry, nursing or the sciences, and is renewable for up to four years.

$5,000
Abigail Bensler, Monarch High

Abigail plans to pursue a biomedical education at Colorado State University.

“Whether it is through a wide-reaching medical practice or simply helping people within my own community, I want to spend my career bettering humanity. I am motivated by my own personal experiences with my father’s sickness. His fight and struggles showed me that everyone deserves the best medical care, and a chance to live a strong and healthy life.”


Dennie & Donna Wise Scholarships

These scholarships are awarded to students pursuing a vocational, technical or community college education. Each scholarship is renewable for up to two years. 

$1,000
Yareli Ordaz, Boulder High

Yareli plans to study nursing at Front Range Community College.

“The Latinx community and I Have a Dream Foundation have helped me be a better person and achieve my academic goals. Being bilingual is a gift, but it also makes schooling a little bit more difficult, especially reading and writing. The afterschool program has given me opportunity and the extra support I need to be successful academically and socially.”

$1,000
Nicholas Folsom, Monarch High

Nicholas plans to pursue the automotive tech program at NASCAR Technical Institute in Moorsville, NC.

“Upon graduating from the NASCAR Technical Institute, I want to obtain employment in the racing industry. At a race team I would do whatever job that I am hired to do with the hopes of becoming a crew chief. I want to use the skills that I learn from attending the NASCAR Technical Institute to ensure that I will have a successful career.”

$1,000
Jameson Winding, Arapahoe Ridge

Jameson plans to study Sustainability and Climate Change at Colorado Mountain College.

 “The CMC Sustainability program really stood out to me. I’m drawn to the experiential and hands-on elements of the program. The possibility that, in the not so distant future, a lot of the nature we take for granted now will be gone permanently motivates me to learn how to create a more sustainable future.”


Jeff Howenstein Panther Scholarships

This is a new scholarship for 2024, created in honor of former Boulder High AVID teacher, Jeff Howenstein, by his family and friends. The scholarship is awarded to students who participated in the AVID Program at Boulder High and is renewable for up to four years. Pictured below are the two recipients and with Jennifer DL and Kate V. who organized Howie Fest to raise the funds.

$1,000
Nataly Villa, Boulder High

Nataly plans to attend the University of Denver.

“AVID made me feel like I belonged in a space where my dreams and aspirations carried weight and meaning. That I held a place and position where I could do anything that I set my mind to. That I was limitless in my endeavors. Having teachers who believed in me and who kept me on track, only inspired me to work harder.”

$1,000
Andrea Herrera Rincon, Boulder High

Andrea plans to study nursing at the University of Colorado Denver.

“AVID has made a really big impact on my life and goals. Especially when it comes to self-advocacy. It taught me to have a voice and to reach out when I need help.”


Independent Order of Odd Fellows Scholarships

Recipients will be announced soon!


Panther Pride Scholarships

Recipients will be announced soon!

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

From park ranger to education advocate: Volunteer Rich Smith’s enduring commitment to empowering students

By Alison Meyer

Rich Smith, a dedicated volunteer with Impact on Education, has committed his life to educating, both inside the classroom and beyond. From his early days as a park ranger teaching the tenets of environmental stewardship to youth mentoring and coaching, Smith’s career journey reflects a profound passion for fostering learning opportunities and supporting underserved communities.

Educating and supporting every kid can have ripple effects in their family and the community.

A strong belief in education

Growing up in rural Massachusetts, Smith was surrounded by nature, igniting a lifelong love for the outdoors and a deep appreciation for education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology and secondary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership and has held Massachusetts and Colorado teaching certifications.

After teaching eighth-grade science in Massachusetts, he moved to Boulder in 1980, eventually heading the Ranger Services and Education and Outreach Divisions of the City of Boulder Open Space Department. He served on the Boulder Valley School District Environmental Education Steering Committee and has led scores of classes and field trips for District students and the general public.

Now in semi-retirement, Smith consults on creating educational plans and materials for parks, open spaces, historic sites, visitor centers, nature centers and Scenic and Historic Byways. 

Giving back to the community

While always championing education, Smith found his superpower as a volunteer for Impact on Education. “Every time I volunteer with Impact on Education, I see that it makes a difference,” he said. “Some payoffs are long-term, like scholarships, but many are immediate. Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry or cold, so they meet those needs.”

During the last four years volunteering, Smith has assembled science kits, helped set up for fundraising events, delivered books to schools, stuffed backpacks with school supplies, reviewed scholarship applications, inventoried and repaired musical instruments, and that’s not even the full list. 

I believe in the transformative power of education.

Smith’s involvement with Impact on Education has given him insight into the significant needs within the school district, particularly for students from underserved backgrounds.

“Reviewing requests from teachers for supplemental classroom materials reveals the critical gaps faced by underserved students,” said Smith. “There is a real need, and Impact on Education is meeting it.”

Through his tireless efforts with Impact on Education, Smith continues to make a difference in the lives of countless students, ensuring that every young person has the opportunity to thrive academically and beyond. “I believe in the transformative power of education,” he said. “It’s impossible to talk about this without sounding trite, but kids are the future. Not just well-off kids or kids we think don’t need help — educating and supporting every kid can have ripple effects in their family and the community.”

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

School-based wellness: An innovative approach to improving teenage mental health

Being a teenager is hard. 

It’s always been this way, but recent increases in anxiety and depression have many experts warning of a mental health crisis for America’s teenagers. Seven out of ten teenagers are concerned about the issue, and no gender, race or income level is immune, according to the Pew Research Center.

Tess Amer, a mental health advocate at Fairview High School, knows the pressures Boulder’s teenagers face firsthand. As a licensed counselor and certified teacher, she oversees the school’s Wellness Center, a cozy and calming space that welcomes teenagers seeking mental health support.

Fairview High School Wellness Center

What is the purpose of Wellness Centers?

Fairview’s Wellness Center is one of six Boulder Valley School District centers where teens can destress, self regulate, talk to a counselor or get a referral for additional support. In Amer’s room, the light is kept soft and low and is decorated with plants and comfortable chairs. Students can unwind using one of the many wellness tools scattered throughout the room, including kinetic sand, weighted blankets and fidget toys. “The room itself is a wellness tool,” said Amer.

“It offers a reprieve from the demands of the school day where students have to be focused and diligent, and it’s also a physical retreat from the harsher lights and louder sounds in the rest of the school building. Students are served and supported simply by being in the room.”

When they come to her Wellness Center, Amer greets every student and does a quick check-in. Not every student wants to chat, but if someone needs some additional support, she’s there to help. Generally, she finds that when students need help, it’s usually to talk to and process with a safe adult. “The beauty of the room is that many students access it simply as a place to relax and destress. Over time, they develop a relationship with me without noticing, and if a time comes when they experience higher stress and anxiety, or there is an emergent situation, we’ve already developed trust.” 

“The room itself is a wellness tool. Students are served and supported simply by being in the room.”

Unlike traditional school counselors who carry a caseload of hundreds of students with responsibilities ranging from writing college recommendation letters to managing 504 plans, Amer and the other five Wellness Center mental health advocates focus solely on providing mental health wellness counseling and support. “Teenagers are experiencing immense stress and anxiety around school and feeling pressure to do well academically,” she said. “They feel overwhelmed managing school sports and activities or need support managing family dynamics and friend struggles.”

The impact of school-based wellness

The Wellness Centers are meeting the need—at Fairview, 40-50 students access the Wellness Center daily. Across the district, these Impact on Education funded centers served 1,301 students, who made 7,711 visits during the fall semester of the 2023-2024 school year.

Students with Tess Amer in Fairview High School Wellness Center

Amer believes the skills and techniques her students learn in the Wellness Center will serve them into adulthood. “If we can teach them how to take a break, care for themselves, regulate their emotions and develop coping skills, then in the future we’ll have a community of functioning, well adults.” Boulder Valley students receive vital wellness services completely free of charge, thanks to a partnership with Impact on Education.

The organization not only funds the Wellness Centers but also covers the salaries of ten dedicated mental health advocates, including Amer. “Impact on Education saw a problem and developed a tangible solution to address mental health where students are—in the schools,” said Amer. “They are an innovative and collaborative partner for the school district, and I am so grateful for their support of our students.”

“Impact on Education saw a problem and developed a tangible solution to address mental health where students are—in the schools.”

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

How mock interviews support career readiness for high schoolers

For students in our Career Readiness Academy, mock interviews are more than just a practice run – they’re a safe space to explore their potential, polish their skills and practice professional communication.

In today’s fast-paced world where first impressions can make or break opportunities, these workshops help students build confidence and prepare for real-world challenges ahead. They also offer a unique opportunity for volunteers to engage with the next generation, sharing their expertise and learning in the process.

Thank you to all of our volunteers! These workshops rely on people like you donating your time and talent. We appreciate you, and so do these students!


More workshop photos can be found at the end of this story.

The mock interview experience

Participating in mock interviews can be a transformative experience for students. It’s during these three 7-minute interviews that they learn the subtle art of making eye contact, the importance of speaking confidently about their achievements, and how to navigate common interview questions.

I loved the workshop, as it progressed I gained confidence and it became much easier.

– Laura M., BVSD student

Students often start the workshop with a mix of excitement and nervousness, but as they engage in simulated interviews, receive feedback, and observe their peers, a profound change occurs. They leave the workshop not just with enhanced interview skills, but a newfound confidence in their ability to communicate their ideas and aspirations.

I really liked how many different interviewers there were to get multiple perspectives. 

– Henry D., BVSD Student

Our workshop volunteers bring diverse professional backgrounds to the experience and also find the workshops to be rewarding. Volunteers witness firsthand the eagerness and potential of the students and get to provide constructive feedback and share insights from their own experiences. The workshops are a reminder of the diverse paths to success and the importance of guidance and encouragement in shaping young careers.

Laying the groundwork for success

Mock interviews are just one of 10 workshops that make up the Career Readiness Academy, helping ensure students are adequately prepared for the interviews. Before this workshop students have explored their purpose and passions, learned about possible careers and BVSD opportunities that can support them, and practiced professional communication and interview skills.

One of the most important steps students take during the Career Readiness Academy is creating a resume. 

[I was surprised] how much they progressed from the first round to the third round of interviews. And how well prepared their resumes were!

– Erika W., Mock Interview Volunteer

Learning how to highlight their skills, experiences and achievements prepares them for the immediate task of presenting themselves professionally, but also instills a sense of confidence and self-awareness. 

More than just interview skills

For students these workshops extend beyond the goal of improving interview skills – the feedback and process often sparks self-reflection and personal growth. They also serve as a platform for networking, allowing students to connect with professionals who can offer guidance, mentorship, and sometimes even opportunities for internships or jobs.

The experience was eye-opening around what I thought I knew about teenagers. It was positive and exciting to learn more about IOE, and the volunteer team was energized, positive, and varied, which was great to experience and be part of.

– Emily T., Mock Interview Volunteer

[I enjoyed] the variety and the opportunity to speak to the kids. I never find myself interacting with students in that age group so it was a lovely step out of my norm.

– Kyle A., Mock Interview Volunteer

For volunteers the experience is equally enriching. Engaging with students allows them to give back to the community in a meaningful way, sharing their knowledge and experiences to help shape the workforce of tomorrow. It also offers them a fresh perspective on the challenges and aspirations of this younger generation.

A foundation for future success

Mock interview workshops show the value of practical, experiential learning.They underscore the importance of preparation, practice, and feedback in finding professional success, and offer both students and volunteers an invaluable experience that resonates long after the interviews are over.

Hearing the students describe what they learned from the interviews was the best part!

– Erika W., Mock Interview Volunteer

Through all of the Career Readiness Academy workshops, the journey of career exploration and personal growth goes hand in hand, laying a solid foundation for future success.

Photo Gallery

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

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 students across the Boulder Valley School District?

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Impact on Education
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