Gus the Bus, a free, preschool classroom on wheels, was recently launched by the Aspen Community Foundation and Garfield School District Re-2, with support from the Rifle Community Foundation.
Gus the Bus is a new, innovative way to deliver quality preschool education to three-, four- and five-year-olds who would not otherwise receive these services and are at risk of starting school unprepared.
Gus is a retrofitted school bus equipped with learning centers that help children develop skills necessary to be successful in kindergarten and become life-long learners.
Now, the two foundations have received a matching grant of $22,000 from the Brenden Mann Foundation. Katie Mackley, president of the Rifle Community Foundation, said the grant will leverage local donations to Gus the Bus and help build a broad base of community support for the program.
"We believe strongly in what the Rifle Community Foundation and the Aspen Community Foundation are doing with Gus the Bus," said Johnny Brenden, president of the Brenden Mann Foundation. "The long-term impact of quality early childhood education has been well documented for its lasting benefit to the children, their families and the community. We are pleased to be of help with this matching grant."
Twice weekly, Gus visits six neighborhoods in Rifle and New Castle where two qualified Re-2 district early childhood teachers provide a literacy-rich educational experience to 52 children, and support families with training and resources to be actively involved in their child's learning.
"I am very happy with the Gus the Bus program and have seen a lot of progress in my son, Eduardo," said Lorena Pizarro, who lives in the Cottonwood Springs Mobile Home Park. "He likes to tell his older brother he goes to school two days a week on Wednesday and Thursday. And he says, 'Mommy, I have lots of friends'."
"Every time my son, Kevin, sees a school bus he says, 'That is my school,'" said Vanesa Soto of Rifle, who's son meets Gus at Davidson Park. "He loves Gus, he loves the Raising A Reader book bags and he asks if he can go on Gus every day. "
"On his first day on Gus, when I came to pick him up two hours later, my son, Beckett, asked if he could stay all day," said Ashley Michelson of Rifle. Her son boards Gus at Joyce Park. "And he still asks every day, 'Is it preschool day?'"
"Research has shown that children who attend quality preschool, regardless of background or personal circumstances, are more likely to have the skills that prepare them to learn, read and succeed in school, and succeed in life," added Mackley. "We believe Gus is a wonderful education addition to our area."
Gus is a signature project of Aspen Community Foundation's Cradle to Career Partnership, an effort to bring nonprofits, business, schools, government and philanthropy together to support the success of children living from Aspen to Parachute.
For more information Gus the Bus, contact Mackley at (970) 319-8901.