Written by: Ron Olsen, Chairman & CEO
We often say that success in our business, helping our clients drive greater impact through education and training, is achieved through the integration of content, expertise and tools. I was reminded during this pandemic that sometimes the tool that is needed most, that will drive the greatest impact on lives, is simply human connection.
In 2016, Remote Learner started the RL Giving program to help coordinate the community efforts of our team and to create a space to share stories and opportunities to make a difference with each other. The program supports team member involvement with charitable initiatives through additional time off, matching donations and pro-bono Remote Learner services to help amplify the messages for those charities that are important to our team.
One of my personal investments has been with Summit 54, a non-profit with whom I have worked since its inception in 2009. The mission of Summit 54 is to improve Colorado’s economy and society through effective, efficient and accountable investments in education. The organization accomplishes this mission by bringing successful programs from other regions into Colorado and, more recently, creating programs from scratch where no other successful model exists.
Since 2010, Summit 54 has funded a highly successful summer program in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley called Summer Advantage. Its premise is simple – to use learning and physical activities and field trips to provide continuity of education and connection for students during the summer months when significant learning loss generally occurs. Many program participants are also on free lunch programs during the school year, so a key tenet of the program is a partnership with the Roaring Fork School District to continue the breakfast and lunch program during the summer months. Much has been written about the success of the program and the impact that it has had, not only for the students in the program, but for their families and communities.
But in the months leading up to the summer of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began impacting all aspects of life, the organization was left with the difficult decision to suspend the 2020 program for the health and well-being of the students and faculty. Bringing 550+ students plus faculty and parents together in classroom settings were simply not going to be possible. The disappointment for the students, their families, the faculty, and the school district was too much to take. So the Summit 54 team, led by Founder, Executive Director and Board Chair Terri Caine, decided to pivot. While an online program was possible, we acknowledged that it wouldn’t accomplish the same goals of providing meal programs, physical activity and social connectedness.
Over a three week period, the Summer Success program was born. Capitalizing on the successful aspects of the Summer Advantage program, Summer Success is a ½ day program providing meals, learning opportunities, physical activity and social engagement in small group, outdoor settings throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. By keeping the groups small and consistent throughout the duration of the program, combined with recommended health and safety protocols such as masks and hand washing, the coronavirus threat was minimized and, as they say, the show could go on.
The program ran from June 22 to July 23, 2020, and was very well received by students, parents and teachers alike. Having had the privilege of hearing directly from the students how much they appreciated the program and the ability to connect with other students, I can tell you that this year was a smashing success. It was different than prior years, to be sure, but in many ways a better experience and one that perhaps other communities will embrace in future years.
Sometimes, the right tool for the job isn’t a tool at all. With deep consideration of the issues, potential for impact, desired goals and identified challenges, smart, well-meaning members of the community can come up with some pretty great answers. I’m proud to be affiliated with Summit 54 and the great work being done there, not only in education but in social connection and supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives on a local basis. Congrats to all of the students, families and volunteers of this year’s Summer Success program!
It is not enough to simply talk about the problems our communities face. Action is required in order to make a difference and I’m proud to lead by example for my team at Remote Learner. Click here for more information about the Remote Learner’s RL Giving Program, and to support Summit 54 in their ongoing community efforts, click here to make a donation.