(Contest Nominee) OUTDOOR LAB FOUNDATION Inspires Colorado Kids through Science and Exploration

Citywide Banks Community OutreachOUTDOOR LAB FOUNDATION is one of seven nominated charities for Citywide Banks’ Charity Hand-Up Contest taking place from March 1-14, 2013. The Denver/Boulder community is invited to vote for a nominee and enter prize drawings. Citywide Banks will donate $7,500 to nominated charities based on voting results.

What do you do when your county’s most popular school program for over half a century is at risk of getting cut? That’s the question that Jefferson County’s Outdoor Lab, a week long off-site academic program for sixth-graders dedicated to hands on science learning, faced about two years ago during severe budget cuts.

Outdoor Lab Foundation - Citywide Banks Charity Contest“The outpouring of the community was tremendous,” Shannon Hancock, executive director of the Outdoor Lab Foundation said. “We had kids bringing in piggy banks, doing car washes, bake sales, kids giving up their birthday money all to save the Outdoor Labs,” she recalled.

The Outdoor Lab is a program that sends 6,000 sixth-graders from 93 different public schools in Jefferson County to one of two historic sites on Mount Evans or Windy Peak for a week. “The kids immerse themselves in hands-on science learning. They’re taught by high school interns and school educators. They spend the entire time outside exploring the environment learning about geology, hydrology, biology, forestry, astronomy. They develop a whole new appreciation for what science learning is all about,” Hancock explained. Furthermore, Jefferson County High School students act as mentors and helpers, so it also fosters leadership skills as well.

Every sixth-grader in Jefferson County public schools has the opportunity to attend regardless of physical ability or the ability to pay. Outdoor Lab can also accommodate kids with mental and emotional disabilities. “The schools strive to get EVERY student to Outdoor Lab,” Hancock emphasized. “Both sites have medical clinics staffed with registered nurses — something that is rare for these types of programs.”

Founded in 2003, the Outdoor Lab Foundation was started initially to raise enough funds to bridge the gap between county funding and the extras that the students needed like GPS units, safety vests, bows, and arrows. The foundation also had a secondary mission to slowly build an endowment. Then, major cuts hit about two years ago and the vital program was in serious jeopardy.

The community rallied and held bake sales, car washes and other local fundraising events, and raised enough money to save the program for that year. But, they realized that they needed some major foundation planning to ensure that this beloved program lasted for years to come.

It was time for the Outdoor Lab Foundation to kick it into high gear and Hancock was hired as its first employee to implement a plan to sustain this adored program for years to come.

How adored and important is this program? When kids are surveyed after graduation from high school about their favorite educational experiences, 90% of the time they bring up Outdoor Lab, said Hancock.

And with 350,000 alumni, it has inspired many to become engineers, scientists, teachers, and numerous other professions in the sciences. “We have four people on our board, alone, that chose their career field because of Outdoor Lab,” Hancock said.

The Foundation is an independent non-profit that relies solely on the community, events and private grants for support and help. They are always looking for volunteers to either help with fundraising, or to help with hands on projects up at the sites such as building or maintaining trails.

A $5,000 donation would go directly to a wastewater treatment system at the Mount Evans site. “Everything we do at the Lab Schools is to improve the student experience or make the sites more capable of sustaining themselves,” explained Hancock. Because of the environmental impact of so many people visiting the site, the improved wastewater treatment project would not only help sustain the site but it would also be a learning experience for the students to see first-hand the full lifecycle of the water we use and the impact on the environment.

For more information about Outdoor Lab Foundation, and ways to donate your time or money, please visit www.outdoorlabfoundation.org.

Vote to Give the Outdoor Lab Foundation a $5,000 Hand-Up
As a Colorado owned bank focused entirely on the Front Range, Citywide Banks shares a commitment to our local community with Outdoor Lab Foundation. Through our Charity Hand-Up Charity Hand-Up Contest Contest, we are proud to spotlight the great work and ongoing needs of Denver/Boulder nonprofits. Based on the results of a 14-day vote on Facebook, the local community will determine how $7,500 is split among seven Colorado charities nominated by Citywide Banks employees. The charity receiving the most votes will receive $5,000 and the runner-up will receive $1,000. The remaining donation amounts will correspond to the voting results for each nominated charity. The voting public can also enter to win 1 of 10 prizes, including dinner for two at some of Denver’s top restaurants. Official prize drawing rules are available by clicking here. For more information about the contest please visit www.CitywideBanks.com/charity/.

How to Cast Your Vote – March 1 -14, 2013
The voting will take place at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Users will need to make sure they are logged into their personal Facebook account. If a user doesn’t have an account, it only takes minutes to set up a new Facebook account and it’s free. The online voting form will only be accessible for Citywide Banks Facebook Fans. To become a Fan, simply click on the “Like” button on top of any of the pages on Citywide’s Facebook Fan Page at Facebook.com/citywidebanks. Then, click on the link for the  ”Charity Contest” tab to access the online voting page. Each Facebook account will be permitted one vote during the 14-day voting period.

Spread the Word about Voting for Outdoor Lab Foundation
Tell your coworkers, friends, and family in Colorado to cast their vote for your favorite nonprofit.  Use the sharing buttons above this article, on the Facebook voting page, or throughout Citywide Banks’ social media pages to help spread the word.

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