Cradle to Career Initiative: Building Youth Success from Aspen to Parachute
Ensuring that every child from Aspen to Parachute is ready for kindergarten and graduates from high school ready for college or career.
In 2012, Aspen Community Foundation formally launched its Cradle to Career Initiative (CCI) with a clear mission: ensuring that every child from Aspen to Parachute is ready for kindergarten and graduates from high school ready for college or career. This CCI mission is critically important. While the Aspen area’s scenic beauty, recreation and cultural resources attract many affluent community members and visitors, the 80 miles between Aspen and Parachute are also home to many working class families struggling to survive. Some youth in our region thrive; others are left behind. Our region is diverse: 70% of Rifle’s elementary school kids qualify for a free or subsidized lunch; 69% of Carbondale’s middle school kids are Latino, and 45% of students in the Roaring Fork School District have been identified as at risk or economically disadvantaged.
A significant educational achievement gap begins in kindergarten when students arrive at school with no preschool experience and poor language skills. These children often do not learn to read proficiently by the third grade, a primary indicator of later school failure. The preschools, after-school enrichment programs, academic tutoring, college counseling, and summer camps that many take for granted in the Aspen area barely exist in other parts of our community. Many of our region’s low-income students do not graduate from high school, and less than 1% of our Latino children enroll in preschool.
Based on the strategies of collective impact, our Cradle to Career Initiative brings all sectors of our community together to create a shared vision and collaborative action plan to address critical issues too large and daunting for individual organizations on their own. From Aspen to Parachute, over 60 nonprofit executives, school officials, health and human service agency heads, and other community leaders have met for monthly roundtable meetings, working together to create broad Cradle to Career goals and specific, measureable indicators of success.
After laying the foundation for this Initiative, The Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative Action Plan was published in May 2014 and CCI partners are currently working together to prioritize items and implement actionable ideas from this community-wide youth action plan.
As the backbone organization for the Cradle to Career Initiative, ACF is guiding the vision and strategy, supporting aligned activities, building public will and mobilizing funding to advance the work of the Initiative. We have established a Cradle to Career Fund to support these efforts and to help initiate and expand programs and services throughout our region.