Those are the words of the school district president in Center, CO, while marveling at the gleaming consolidated school that is helping transform the San Luis Valley. But our story doesn’t begin there.
The fourth day of Literacy Week began in the air, while flying from Denver to Alamosa to celebrate not just the abundant agricultural growth that happens there every year, but the growth in dedication and commitment to early literacy.
After touching down, the group stopped at the First United Methodist Church in Alamosa. The community has created a model for learning and literacy at the Wee Care preschool housed in the church, where Save the Children, the Early Learning Council, parents and teachers work together to engage preschool children in learning to read. Alamosa’s Mayor, the President of Adams State and leaders from non-profit organizations and the media assembled to hear Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia talk about Colorado Literacy Week. And as was expected, Garcia prepared to read Duck on a Bike aloud the featured book of One Book 4 Colorado.
What Garcia didn’t expect to hear was that most of the preschoolers shouted they had seen a duck on a bike, and a cow on a bike, and a sheep on a bike, and in one extreme case a moose on a bike. “You guys have had some great experiences,” Garcia deadpanned.
The group then boarded the van of Center School District, piloted by the district superintendent George Welsh. The van made its way to the Center and the Fyock library which serves as a school, public library and community center. Center School District is a shining example of the magical things can happen when a community, a superintendent, students and teachers come together. Their new building replaced a school built in 1918 and has inspired improvements in commercial and residential buildings. Nearly every measurement of student achievement is up. Despite being among the lowest income districts with high levels of English language learners and transient families, Center School District is changing the lives of students for the better.
To the 30 community members gathered in the library, Garcia repeated the motto of the superintendent: “We must do what we can, with the resource we have in the time we have to do it.”
The VISTA delegation then visited the Head Start in Walsenburg, CO where they read, donated books to the classroom library, and passed out autographed READ posters.
After meeting with educators and sampling local cuisine, the VISTAs headed to Trinidad to tour the RMSER South Colorado Head Start. After reading to 30 enthusiastic 4-year-olds, the VISTAs joined a flawless class-led rendition of the ABCs.
Thursday night Garcia spoke to the Junior League of Denver at Four Mile Historic Park. The Junior League is one of the many partners that has made Literacy Week a success and had made a commitment to improving early literacy skills in young children. David Shannon, the author of Duck on a Bike spoke to the crowd and autographed copies of his book.
“I’ve only been in Colorado for two days but it’s already evident that this state has an incredible and inspiring dedication to improving childhood literacy,” Shannon said.