Impact on Education supports Boulder Valley students after Marshall fire

When the Marshall fire tore through Boulder County in December, the staff at Impact on Education went to work to help Boulder Valley School District students even as staff members and their families were dealing with the tragedy.

Since the fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed two people on Dec. 30, Impact on Education has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the students, their families, and faculty and staff whose homes were destroyed or damaged.

The agency kicked in money to pay for four full-time mental health advocates, said Allison Billings, the executive director. It also has given out gift cards and cash to families and reimbursed mileage for parents who were forced to move farther away from their children’s schools. The agency also has bought advanced math calculators, band instruments and other assorted things schools need to educate children.

“We replaced swim team uniforms and whatever else was needed,” Billings said. “If it was just one less thing the families didn’t have to figure out for their kids, it helped.”

Impact on Education works directly with the Boulder Valley School District to bridge gaps in education for all students with a focus on equity for all, Billings said.

“We do that unapologetically because we live in a community with wide disparities and those disparities show up academically,” Billings said.

For example, the nonprofit organization sponsors a pre-kindergarten program for low-income families so their children aren’t behind their peers when they enroll in kindergarten. In the 2021-2022 school year, 170 children attended a free six-week, half-day program to practice going to school.

Impact on Education also hosts a career readiness academy for high school students, who need help landing a job. Last school year, 75 high school students were enrolled.

During the pandemic, the organization helped pay for home internet and meals for students. It also paid fees for every high school student who needed to attend summer learning programs and it supported tutoring programs for elementary and middle school students.

“We did a lot to help catch kids back up,” she said.

And just as they thought they were emerging from the pandemic crisis, the Marshall fire hit.

Principals and teachers immediately saw a need for mental health counseling for students.

MaryErin Mueller, a mental health advocate in the school district, said Impact on Education helped her and other advocates form support groups for parents at which dinner and child care were provided. The agency has even sent breakfast pastries to the mental health team for their meetings, she said.

“They’re just really open to whatever it is that we need,” Mueller said. “They just seem to be there when we need it.”

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