Celebrating 25 years of success for the Community Foundation Boulder County |
Life is good here in Boulder County: incomes are high, public schools deliver excellence, and healthcare resources are top-notch.
But not everyone shares in that bounty.
Many in Boulder County are stressed by difficulties such as the high cost of living, a persistent achievement gap, or inadequate access to healthcare, according to the foundation’s The Community Foundation’s biennial Boulder County TRENDS Report.
“People have come to rely on TRENDS to peel away that layer of isn’t-everything-wonderful to dig down and say ‘wow, we’ve got some work to do,'” says Josie Heath, president of the Community Foundation Boulder County.
The foundation compiles data and publishes the TRENDS Report to give a more complete and informed picture of the community’s health and vitality.
That information is then used by the foundation, its grantees and donors to make decisions – whether it’s helping donors decide where to invest, or guiding the foundation’s decisions on where the need is greatest for catalytic leadership, or collaboration with nonprofits.
“TRENDS is a key part of what we provide to the community, and how we make decisions about where we invest,” says Heath. “I feel a great source of pride that we’ve been able to help the broader community see areas where they could invest to make a difference.”
Getting at the Root Cause
Equally important to foundation President Heath and Vice President of Communications Gretchen Minekime is the use of that data to make the long-lasting change that gets to the root of community challenges.
“Our work goes beyond making grants to nonprofits. We engage people in strategic work that has an impact in a systemic way,” says Minekime.
The foundation’s School Readiness Initiative is one great example.
According to the TRENDS Report, even though Boulder County boasts excellent public schools, it has one of the largest achievement gaps in the state.
Latino students are impacted the most by that gap. “The gap largely is along socioeconomic lines,” says Minekime.
“We identified a need for leadership to help close that achievement gap to give all kids the access to early childhood education so that they have what they need to enter school and succeed right off the bat,” she adds.
Empowering Community Leaders
That led the foundation’s Chris Barge, vice president of strategic initiatives, to develop the outreach program ELPASO, or Engaged Latino Parents Advancing School Outcomes.
The work of ELPASO is strongly rooted in community leadership and engagement. Over the last couple of years, a small group of Latino School Readiness Coordinators has gone door to door throughout the county.
One family at a time, the coordinators engaged their peers to convey the importance of preparing their child so they are ready to go to school and succeed.
“It’s a peer-to-peer model,” says Minekime. “They began engaging household after household. Parents learn what it means to prepare your kid for school. They also learn to advocate for their families and their communities, and they learn about interfacing with the school system.
“It’s really empowering the community that is most effective to lead themselves to gain better outcomes for their kids.”
To date, ELPASO accomplishments include:
- 50 parent leaders have been trained in early childhood parenting skills, information and advocacy
- More than 150 cafecitos have been held at the homes of parent leaders, benefitting 500+ additional children
- 1,800 Latino parents of 0- to 5-year-olds in Boulder County have been referred to resources that can benefit their children
Heath points to ELPASO as “a national model. My hope is that we will spin it off and that it is Latino-led.”
“This is where being a catalyst comes in,” notes Minekime. “By listening to the community and looking at the data, we identified unique and specific ways to partner with others, accomplishing more together than we do alone to make a systemic difference.”
The Boulder Source is pleased to honor the Community Foundation Boulder County as our October Featured Friend. As part of the 25th anniversary, the foundation has refined its focus around three key principles that guide its efforts to make a difference countywide: informed decision-making; accomplishing more together than alone; and being responsive to community needs. Stay tuned as we celebrate the positive impact this organization has made.
Read Part One: Celebrating 25 Years as a Community Catalyst
To find out how to make a difference as a donor, grant applicant or volunteer, visit:
Photos courtesy Community Foundation Boulder County