Preschool on Wheels meets matching grant challenge | PostIndependent.com

Preschool on Wheels meets matching grant challenge

Staff Report

Preschool on Wheels students hold a sign wishing others happy holidays. From left to right: Valeria Delgado, Michelle Hernandez, Davius Fausett, Odyssey Buechler, Diana Diaz Gil, Jose Diaz, Tristian Kreutzer, Diego Prieto and Layla Meeney.

Aspen Community Foundation's Preschool on Wheels program recently announced success in meeting a fundraising challenge from the Brenden Mann Foundation, Columbine Ford of Rifle and the Mascotte and Hojel families.

The successful campaign raised $60,000 for the mobile preschool program, which serves Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

The matching grant challenge was designed to encourage support from the communities served by Gus the Bus and The Sunshine Bus. Contributions from more than 30 individuals and businesses in those communities demonstrated broad support for the program.

Jimmy Breslin, of Columbine Ford Rifle, commented, "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. We care about these kids and believe we can make a significant difference in their lives with the Preschool on Wheels program."

Johnny Brenden, president of the Brenden Mann Foundation, said, "we believe strongly in the Preschool on Wheels program — 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."

The Preschool on Wheels program is in its fourth school year with Gus the Bus and The Sunshine Bus delivering preschool to children 3-5 years of age who otherwise would not receive these services and are at risk for starting school unprepared. The buses serve a combined total of 120 children living in Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

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"Gus the Bus and The Sunshine Bus preschoolers continue to show tremendous growth toward kindergarten readiness which is a testament that quality preschool is one of the most effective ways to improve the educational and life outcomes of young children," said Logan Hood program director with the Aspen Community Foundation.

Gus and Sunshine are state-of-the art retrofitted school buses equipped with learning centers that help children develop skills necessary to be successful in kindergarten and become life-long learners.

Each week Gus and Sunshine visit eight neighborhoods in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, where four qualified early childhood teachers provide a literacy-rich educational experience to children, and support families with training and resources so they can be actively engaged in their child's learning.

"My daughter was on the Sunshine Bus in Silt the past two years," said Jessica Hernandez, a parent. "Now, she is excelling in kindergarten and is already close to [this] year-end's kindergarten standards."

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