Community groups step up to help local students excel

Alumna Abby Lock
touts program

Keywords: Charity,
Karen Winchester from Pinon Project works with kids during the Get Ready for School for Four Year Olds Family Night in 2013. Enlargephoto

Courtesy/The Cortez Journal

Karen Winchester from Pinon Project works with kids during the Get Ready for School for Four Year Olds Family Night in 2013.

As students headed back to school this week, other organizations in town geared up with activities that show that learning doesn’t have to stop or start with a school bell.

From school-readiness before kindergarten to leadership opportunities that prepare students to be community leaders after high school, nonprofits in town provide programs to help students excel.

The School Community Youth Collaborative, a leadership program for teens, is looking to reach more students this year to help them discover the rewards of community building.

“We want to be sure we’re reaching out and serving the whole community,” said the collaborative’s director, Peggy Tennyson.

For alumna Abby Lock, now a freshman at Fort Lewis, the program helped her discover a passion for serving others. She was introduced to how to promote local policy change through the Youth Leadership Council.

She later got involved with High School Leadership and as an intern for the collaborative.

“You really do find your strengths as a leader and as a person,” she said.

As the capstone activities for the High School Leadership programs, the group organized a fundraiser for the homeless shelter this year and painted the inside of the building.

Lock advises skeptical underclassmen to consider the program.

“It may sound like another obligation or responsibility, but it ends up being a valuable learning opportunity,” Lock said.

The applications for High School Leadership are due Aug. 30.

To help kick start an academically successful student, the work starts before kindergarten.

For parents with young children, the Montelores Early Childhood Council offers many tips and strategies to help families prepare their children for school. MECC is tasked with helping daycare centers and the community work with students to meet early learning standards so they will be ready to transition to school.

Research shows that the early years are critical to academic success, said Mary Dodd, the Chief Knowledge Officer for MECC. Before school starts and throughout the year, establishing a routine can help children adjust even when a family might be experiencing stress.

“Routine is important because they can feel secure, they can know what is going to happen next,” Dodd said.

Right before school starts establishing an early bedtime, going to visit a teacher’s classroom, and practicing saying goodbye are all ways to help make the transition to school easier, she said.

The group also offers free monthly family nights for those with children from preschool to kindergarten where parents can sit back and watch professionals work their children during play and pick up some pointers.

At the family event Thursday in Centennial Park at 5:30 young children can learn all about the fun of rhyming through simple games like searching for rhyming objects.

On the third Thursday of September MECC’s family night will focus on preparing 4-year-olds for kindergarten next fall.

MECC also provides a free dinner at each event and asks those interested to RSVP at