Parents and teachers step in to take a break

DENVER — Inside Magen Klcoyn’s classroom at AUL Alternative High School in Denver, the audience is often a tough crowd.

“I do stand-up comedy on the side, so I laugh because I’m like, ‘You’re a tougher audience than my drunk adults at night,'” Kilcoyn said of his students.

But if anyone can handle a crowd like this, it’s Mrs. Kilcoyn, or “Kill” as the students call her.

“We came in and transformed this school,” Kilcoyn said of the current administration and staff. “It was in the red. They were about to shut it down. We were basically given a year to turn around. »

It was four years ago, before the pandemic.

AUL is now thriving, survived the pandemic, and is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We went from active enrollment in the building when we came here; on average (it was) about 30 to 35 kids a day,” she said. “And we have a waiting list at any one time of 40, 50, 60 kids at this point. Our enrollment is currently hovering between 150 and 160.”

Kilcoyn says the key has been really “simplistic”.

“It’s about repetitive, positive interactions,” Kilcoyn said. “And so, every time we greet our young people, we use their name, as if to really honor their identity, who they are and where they come from.”

It is a success. And now, as Kilcoyn and thousands of other educators begin to wrap up the school year, we’re going 360 degrees on what summer looks like this year – giving parents a guide on how to solve summer after two long years online, then in-person, then online again, then in-person again, learning.

Everybody needs a break

“I think it’s more than important, not just for the kids, but for all of us to take a break,” said Dr. Anot Geva, a clinician at the Behavioral Health and Wellness Center at the Medical Center of Aurora. “It has been two very long years. Academically and socially, taking a break is important.

Geva says summer vacation is the equivalent of letting your muscles recover after lifting weights.

“We need to rest so we can recover and be able to go again,” Geva said. “Just pushing as hard as you can without stopping won’t get us better results. Taking that strategic break is very important for the recovery.

Michael Atkins agrees.

“I’ve been in teaching since I was 19,” Atkins said. “I started – I was a caretaker at a Smiley.”

Atkins is now the principal of Stedman Elementary.

“We have to redefine, we have to touch up and then re-engage,” Atkins said.

He says students learn differently in spaces away from school, and summer provides that alternative learning environment.

“I always say as an individual, we never, we never stop learning,” Atkins said. “But we learn differently in different spaces.”

Summer is a ‘protein shake’ for teachers

As for educators, Atkins says summer is like a protein shake for teachers.

“They work 24/7, all year round,” he said. “They don’t have a day off, do they?” So they also need the break.

get outside

One way to recharge is to go outside.

“From age 7, we do day-long adventures,” said Paul Dreyer, co-founder and CEO of Avid4Adventure. “Our goal is to empower children to choose active and healthy outdoor lifestyles.”

Avid4Adventure started in 2004 and the goal here is to keep kids active during the summer.

“You have those times when you have to fight against something or a risky component,” Dreyer said. “And then you come out the other end. And it’s a sense of accomplishment and empowerment that you’ve done that and reached that challenge.

Dreyer says the camp allows kids to get out of their comfort zone.

“We talk about positive risk taking all the time at Avid, where a kid is able to assess a risk, maybe not achieve something, or chooses to go in a different direction, but they’re charged with really understand what those risks are and fight through them in a positive and fun way to get a reward at the end,” Dreyer said.

Management of camp expenses, activities

Of course, camp can be very expensive, with some families telling Denver7 they spend $2,000 to $5,000 a summer on camps, which is not possible for many families.

It’s also impossible to get in sometimes with camps that sell out within minutes of going live.

“I mean, I don’t know how people sign up for these camps,” said Erin Pier, a mother and school counselor. “They open them at 8:01 a.m. and if you’re not there I tried to enroll my kids in camp at the zoo and I was 800and online,” Pier said. “So it’s like, ‘Join the waitlist.’ It’s become so competitive.

SHARE YOUR OPINION | What are you thinking about planning this summer for your kids and family?

Pier recognizes how beneficial camping and the outdoors can be, but also recognizes the inequalities and has worked to close those gaps.

“A lot of the students didn’t all leave Denver, did they?” she says. “They never left. I never left Colorado. In fact, I’ve already asked the Denver Museum of Nature and Science about their process for bringing children who may be underrepresented into their camps. And so, they have opportunities, it’s just that the families don’t know about it, sometimes it’s so hard to access it and it’s very hard to get in there.

Add to that the difficulty of navigating the summer when you are a working parent for some families.

“Working parents who can’t afford camp, the sheer logistics can be overwhelming,” Geva said. “The camp experience and all that goes with it is also very, very family friendly where there are two parents and enough means to afford it.” But for single parents, it’s very difficult for working parents who don’t have extended families who can sometimes help bring their children in.

Get organized

Geva and other experts suggest getting organized as a good place to start summer sailing.

Maybe a chart with each child’s name at the top, each summer week listed on the side, and what each of your children is doing that particular summer week.

Rest and Rejuvenate

Ali Larson is a Denver mom who just wants her kids to have a restful summer.

“Where they’re not stressed out about anything school or college-related,” Larson said. “So that’s probably a main focus. I want them to just enjoy life, each other and their neighborhood friends. We love having them outside all day.

Camp discounts/bursaries

Many camps offer discounts.

“There are also cheaper programs that really offer sliding scales and discounts,” Geva said. ” Do not be shy. That’s why these programs exist. Diversity in the program also serves the program. This makes it richer and more interesting. So, find out about discounts, find out about scholarships and also get creative.

A shining example of this creativity is Stedman Elementary.

“We have summer programs, free summer programs, because we align opportunities for students with neighboring community organizations,” Atkins said. “We have a summer camp here, every summer, a free summer camp that Children first short. And it’s a community partnership.

Serving the underserved has also become a mission at Avid4Adventure.

“A self-contained scholarship and financial system,” Dreyer said. “And so, for about ten years, 100% of families who have applied for financial assistance have received financial assistance from us. One hundred percent. We really want to remove this financial barrier.

Kilcoyn says she not only worries her kids are regressing — or going through what’s called the summer slide — but she’s also worried her students are staying out of trouble.

“I think it’s very easy, especially for people who are out of school, to assume that everyone is brought up in a loving home,” Kilcoyn said. “And every kid gets their breakfast before they walk through the door. Unfortunately, we serve a population in our school where they’re raised in survival environments, and the brain just works differently when that’s the case.

Year-round school?

She advocates for year-round schooling, which could help parents juggle childcare issues, among other things.

“I love it,” Kilcoyn said. “And there’s the myth, there’s the conventional wisdom that teachers have three months off and that’s just not true. As we close the building, again, as we mentally and physically close ourselves out of the building, and then we’re here weeks before the kids come back. I think about what year-round schooling would do to give us that reset without that huge block of time that seems really intimidating. I think it might work here.

But – she also understands that it doesn’t work for many families.

“Some kids work in their summers,” Pier said. “Their families depend on them to weigh in financially as well.”

What everyone seems to agree on is that summer should be a patchwork of activities – camps, swimming, biking, dirt games, family visits, volunteering and kids just being kids.

“It’s such a wonderful time for my kids to be able to do things they love,” Pier said.

“It’s critical that we have the ability to refine, refinish, re-engage,” Atkins said.

“Absolutely. It’s both being physically active, which is good for mental health, but it’s also that experience of independence,” Geva said.

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