Mesa County is home to one of the lowest funded school districts in Colorado, and like many others, it continues to see budget cuts year after year. Now, the community is coming together to support students on its own.
From teachers, to PTOs and non-profit organizations, there are many around the community who want to give students the best experience in the classroom as possible. To do this, they sometimes need money, so some are finding creative ways to give schools the financial support they need.
As a student, he walked the halls as Scott Vandlandingham. Now, it's just “V” or Mr. V at Fruita Middle School. Vanlandingham now teaches sixth grade math at the middle school he attended.
"I grew up in this community, it's kind of molded me into the person I am," he said.
Over time, Vanlandingham has seen how budget cuts have affected classrooms and students. Now, he's looking to give back in the form of a race.
"We have 101 kids, 105 kids in our cores, so if we want to go do something extra, it costs a lot of money to do that," Vanlandingham said. "The one and only purpose [of the Fruita Fall Festival 5K Stampede] is to raise money for classrooms here at Fruita Middle School."
Vanlandingham and the FMS student council will be hosting their second annual 5K face in two weeks, with proceeds going back to support the school. Other groups around the Valley are also looking to lend a hand to better support education.
"We’re doing quite a bit of fundraising to assist kids who are struggling with reading to have the resources that they need to make sure they can achieve where they ought to be," District 51 Foundation coordinator Jennifer Hensel Hildebrandt said.
The District 51 Foundation is a non-profit formed two years ago with the goal of providing financial support to further reading, technology and career preparation for District 51 students.
"It really is about investing in our kids and investing in our community," Hensel Hildebrandt said.
"We’ve had a lot of budget cuts in the past and our PTO has stepped up to help that not feel as bad and as close to the classroom," Broadway Elementary principal Sharon Kallus said. "Our PTO provides books for our classrooms; they provide things for our library."
Broadway Elementary School's PTOis also holding its second annual Broadway 5-K frenzy to raise money in October, all in an effort to alleviate the burden continuous budget cuts have created over the years.
While the money will go toward different projects depending on the schools' needs, the funds will all have the same positive impact on the students.
"[The race is] my way of giving back to my staff, colleges and my students," Vanlandingham said.
Vanlandingham’s Fruita Fall Festival 5K Stampede will take place Sunday, September 30. The 5K run/walk begins at 9 a.m. on North Mesa, Street Circle Park. You can register until midnight September 26th for $25. Day of registration costs $35.
You can register online at www.fruitafallfestival.com or in person at the Fruita Area Chamber of Commerce. Call (970)858-3894 for more information.
The Second Annual Broadway 5K Frenzy will take place on Saturday, October 6 at Soar Physical Therapy on Power Road. The event begins at 9 a.m. You can register online at www.broadway5k.com or day of starting at 8 a.m.
The Gateway School PTO will also be holding a Duck Derby on Friday, October 5 during the parade on Foy Road. Participants can purchase a duck from a PTO member for $5 with all proceeds benefiting the Gateway PTO Scholarship Fund and materials for classrooms. For more information contact Gateway School at (970)-931-2276.
For more information or to donate to the District 51 Foundation, visit D51Foundation.org.