The City of Greeley’s Culture, Parks and Recreation Department was honored to receive the Columbine Award at the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) annual conference this fall. Greeley Recreation’s Youth Enrichment Programs were recognized for their focus on academic achievement, parent engagement and risk management.

Greeley Recreation strives to provide programming for area youth that offers not only socialization but also meaningful and intentional opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing through various activities. Approximately 31% of Greeley residents are under the age of 19. Additionally, 63% of all students in Greeley schools qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.

The City of Greeley has offered youth enrichment programs for the past forty years. Historically, programs have occurred at the Rodarte Community Center, located in a low-income neighborhood adjacent to Island Grove Regional Park. Many area students take advantage of the after school programs offered and several participate in summer camps. While program participation was solid, Recreation staff felt there was plenty of opportunity for improvement.

To improve what they offered, the Youth Enrichment program was completely restructured over the past two years with improvements based on three key factors: parent engagement, academic success and risk management. Efforts clearly had a positive effect on students as 40% of Recreation’s after school program participants tested “above proficiency” in literacy scores for the 2018-2019 school year.

The second area of focus for youth enrichment was finding ways to engage parents. In purchasing Brightwheel software, parents can download an app on their cell phones and Recreation staff are able to send push notifications, pictures and text messages to parents on a regular basis including program progress notes.

The final area that Recreation staff tackled with youth enrichment programs was risk management. The front entry of the Rodarte Community Center was remodeled with a new entry vestibule, front desk and controlled access to the remainder of the facility.  Brightwheel software QR codes and pin numbers provide a stronger safety measure for child pick up and drop off and volunteers and visitors are now required to check in at the guest services desk at the Rodarte Community Center and issued visitor badges.

The improvements made to youth enrichment programs within Greeley Recreation have made a significant impact on the Greeley community. Program participation numbers have increased and operational efficiencies have been positively impacted. Recreation seasonal and hourly staff are more prepared because of lesson planning, improved staff training and the Wonder curriculum.

Greeley Recreation staff have done a remarkable job over the past two years creating partnerships, implementing technology and making programmatic changes that positively influence youth in the City of Greeley. Greeley Recreation has made tremendous strides to serve Greeley’s diverse community and are honored to receive this award from the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association.