Children laughed and played, running around the playground together behind Mancos Elementary as they took part in activities during their day at the Mancos Summer Hub, a program put on by Mancos United with the help of the Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County.
The Hub is in its first year, and it was created by Mancos United and the community of Mancos as a way to help provide parents who work full-time during the summer a safe and educational place for their children to be during the day.
Discussions about a safe place for kids to spend the summer were ignited after two student suicides over two consecutive summers.
The program is free to all, thanks to the help of grants, and serves more than 75 children in the Mancos community from incoming kindergarten to eighth grade. Registration for summer 2023 is full, but they hope to offer the hub in coming summers.
The center offers rolling registration, which allows parents to pick the days and times they would like their child to be part of the Hub. The camp runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to help parents who work a 9-5 job drop off and pick up their child.
School lunches are provided to students who request them.
According to the Facebook description, Mancos Summer Hub is run by “highly competent adult teachers and use Boys and Girls Club curriculum to instill children with fun and learning in a safe and positive environment.” It noted that they would take the children on field trips around the community.
Many of the Summer Hub workers are teachers and other district workers who have taken on an additional job for the summer to help the Summer Hub take place, working with the Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County to run the program.
Summer Hub Director Donitza Ivanovich said they also offer “specialized themed days for middle school students” from 12 to 2 p.m. who wish to participate.
Katie McClure, executive director of Mancos United, said the summer hub “creates a safe place for kids with caring adults … grow resilience, which makes it easier to handle the hard things in life.”
She said her children, who also attend Summer Hub, have been less stressed and more content, and she said they’re seeing the same thing in other homes.
McClure told the story of a student she works with as a volunteer in the schools who often is seen hiding tears and who tends to be “checked out” in class.
On the first day of summer hub, that student ran up and gave her a hug, something that was uncharacteristic. “The look on their face. It was so light and happy,” she said.
She also spoke of a local foster mom who was thrilled that her kids have a safe place in Mancos where they can grow their roots and make connections in their community.
Mancos United school board liaison member Emily Hutcheson-Brown said she knew there was a need for a program like this in the community when she moved back to Mancos 10 years ago with a 4-year-old son.
“We were a rural community that had very few resources for families,” she said. “As a mom of a young child who had a full-time job, it was impossible at the time. It was nonexistent.”
She and other working moms created a network where they would take a vacation day a week during the summer to help take care of one another’s kids.
She said one of the biggest questions they received from the community after the inception of Mancos United was, “What do I do with my kids in the summer?”
This question, and Hutcheson-Brown and other Mancos parents’ experience trying to find child care during the summer, launched discussions into what became the Summer Hub.
“These kids are not just being observed in a gym,” Hutcheson-Brown said. “They’re getting opportunities to learn and stay engaged. It keeps them fed, keeps them safe, keeps them busy and keeps them learning.”
“It’s creating that community support system for our families,” she added.
Superintendent Todd Cordrey was another influence in getting the Summer Hub up and running, and Hutcheson-Brown noted it was through the efforts of multiple individuals, the community and grants that allowed their idea to get off the ground.
“It’s just been this series of amazing connections and fortune through grants and other things that have allowed us to get the traction we have thus far,” Hutcheson-Brown said.
The Summer Hub also has a code of conduct, expectations and safety to ensure a quality experience for students.
“This was not thrown together,” she added. “We’re trying to reduce the risk of summer and promote what will make these families succeed and feel supported.”
McClure also added that anyone who wishes to donate to Mancos Summer Hub’s future program can do so by emailing her at email@example.com. While the program is free right now due to grants, they are not sure what the future will look like for grants and cost.
A $600 donation would sponsor a child for the entire summer.