Academic summer camp at Rifle Middle School provides free services to 160 students |

Academic summer camp at Rifle Middle School provides free services to 160 students

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Some parents living in Western Garfield County who commute upvalley to Aspen every morning face a challenging dilemma of having to find affordable day care for their children.

BoostCamp, a free holistic youth engagement program offered by Carbondale-based nonprofit Access AfterSchool, had 160 kids enroll this year in its summer session. The program serves students entering first through fifth grades. 

The six-week program was based out of Rifle Middle School and ran five days a week 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from June 13 through July 22. From 20-25 staff, including teachers and counselors, oversee the program, and it is one of six programs Access AfterSchool has offered throughout the valley since 2009.

Access AfterSchool Program Manager Sheila Maurer said each morning kids are given academic lessons before spending afternoons engaging in more hands-on activities.

Students participate in activities ranging from cooking and sewing to learning math and science. 

“We have really fun enrichment classes in the afternoon like cooking and science, and they do PE stuff and fun water stuff, and they go to the pool,” she said. “We take them on field trips every Friday.”

Field trips are diverse, and include the Eureka! McConnell Science Museum, Rifle Falls State Park or even a dip at the Rifle Metro Pool. 

Dr. Laurie Michaels sits on the Access AfterSchool board of directors. An advocate for youth from Aspen to Parachute, she wanted to begin a program for kids who were perhaps left at home when their parents went to work in summertime.

Michaels said, in the past, there were no summer programs for Rifle students. In the Rifle program’s first year alone, 60 students enrolled. That number has since increased, with 75 kids on this summer’s wait list.

“I think kids down there should have the same opportunity parents give their kids in the Upper Roaring Fork Valley,” she said.

Many of the teachers used for BoostCamp come from the Garfield School District Re-2. The district also provides facilities at Rifle Middle School.

Meanwhile, through a partnership with American Red Cross organization Totes for Hope, BoostCamp offers free breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks.

“It’s a fairness issue. A kid is a kid,” Michaels said. “You don’t want to be stuck indoors on a beautiful, sunny day because there’s no one to chaperone you.”

Access AfterSchool Executive Director Deb Rice said BoostCamp relies on substantial grant funding offered through the Colorado Health Foundation. The organization partners with nonprofits to better bolster mental and physical health across the state.

“I’ve been the executive director for 14 years, and it’s all about building communities,” she said. “When our youth are taken care of and our families are supported, you just create this community that thrives and kids are socially and emotionally supported, and it helps support the schools.”

“It’s a win-win for everyone.” 

For more information about BoostCamp and Access AfterSchool, visit

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