Three afterschool educators have been named as Colorado Afterschool Partnership’s (CAP) Best of Colorado Afterschool.
The three winners were nominated by a peer or colleague during the Spring of 2022 and represent the Best of Colorado Afterschool categories of “Program Staff”, “Program Director/Supervisor” and “Making an Impact.”
The Best of Colorado Afterschool award is given annually and recognizes individuals who make contributions that positively impact their programs, organizations, and ultimately the youth and families they serve as well as the broader afterschool field.
Natalie Kuroda – Best of Colorado Afterschool – Program Staff
Natalie Kuroda has been with the Sandburg Mountain Lion Club SACC (school-age child care) program since the age of 16. Natalie attended the program throughout elementary school helping her understand the importance of a safe and fun afterschool program.
When COVID-19 hit Natalie stepped up. She gathered a small group of students and came up with safe and fun activities to do. Natalie took it upon herself to keep the Sandburg Mountain Lion Club website up to date with exciting things kids could do at home with their families: science projects, art projects, and movement games. This has now become a family favorite tab on the website and continues to have fun ideas for families to do at home. Currently, Natalie is a full-time student working towards her Bachelor of Elementary Education.
“Natalie is fully invested to make sure all the children in her care have the same engaging experiences as other children who may not have to attend before and after school programs,” said Jordyn Mackelburger, Sandburg Mountain Lion Club Director. “She has spent a great deal of time building up relationships with all the children and their families. Natalie is just very well known to all in the Sandburg community and gives her best effort every day.”
On Tuesday, June 14, students and staff from the Sandburg Mountain Lion Club, along with Natalie’s family and friends, gathered to celebrate her, as members of CAP presented her with a trophy and certificate for her efforts.
Leigh Savoy – Best of Colorado Afterschool – Program Supervisor/Director
Leigh’s passion has always been working with children. She started in early childhood education and in 2011 she became a volunteer in the preschool program at Ben Franklin Academy (BFA). During BFA’s first year she was hired as an Assistant Preschool Teacher and remains so today. In 2012 Leigh began working in the BASE program, and in 2013, took over the role of BASE Director. That same year she became the Co-Director of the school’s summer camp program. Throughout the years, Leigh has committed herself to her education, and in the fall of this year, she will graduate as an ECE Director.
“The days are long and tiring but that does not stop Leigh from going back day after day, year after year to the three jobs she loves so much.,” said BFA paraeducator Jackie Losasso. “Leigh has worked tirelessly to create a top-tier BASE program at BFA that everyone enjoys and appreciates.”
On Wednesday, June 15, members of CAP presented Leigh with her award and there was not a dry eye in the house. Tears of joy for Leigh’s accomplishment flooded the school gymnasium filled with students, staff, family and friends.
Vivian Lybarger – Best of Colorado Afterschool – Making an Impact
After spending 35 years as a teacher in Mesa County, Vivian retired and began working with the Riverside Educational Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. Vivian serves as the Site Manager at Mount Garfield Middle School.
Vivian runs a middle school program with an enrollment of nearly 100 students. She and her staff have created a safe and nurturing environment where students are supported academically and socially. The design of the program incorporates five meals a day, academic tutoring, enrichment activities, and field trips. According to Jennifer Ponce, Site Lead of Mount Garfield Middle School, Vivian’s work does not stop after program hours. She devotes her life to helping those in need.
“Vivian prioritizes equity within her work by holding herself and her staff to high standards, and she encourages her staff to push themselves when it comes to creating student experiences,” Ponce said. “These are just a few of the reasons why Vivian has earned the respect of employers, staff, students, and families.”
On Tuesday, June 21, students and staff from the Riverside Educational Center, along with Vivian’s family and friends, gathered to celebrate her, as members of CAP presented her with a trophy and certificate for her efforts. Grand Junction’s local newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, stopped by the event to cover the celebration. Their article can be read here.