2023 Is Off To A Great Start – Midyear Impact Report

Gypsum Middle School Project Grant

Gypsum Creek Middle School outdoor day

Last month we teamed up with a Gypsum Creek Middle School teacher, Kelli Adrian, to help her make climbing more accessible to her students during their “M-term”, our Director of Programming, Kaartik Gupta traveled out to them to learn more about this program and how much your donations helped them. 

Kelli is a 6th-grade math teacher at Gypsum Creek Middle School in Eagle County, Colorado. A few of her students arrive late to her period as I’m setting up to interview her, and she sternly asks them to go outside while chiding them for being tardy. The kids sheepishly turn around yelling back “I’m sorry!” it’s clear that they respect what she has to say and aren’t happy to disappoint her. “Welcome to middle school!” She laughs, turning off her “teacher voice” as she does (you know the one I’m talking about.)

Kelli attended CSU for college where, alongside earning her degree, she and a group of her friends fell in love with climbing. She carried that love with her after graduation and continues to engage with it in her home in Eagle County, Colorado. But rather than just climbing for herself, Kelli turned around to extend the sport to others.

She and a fellow teacher at Gypsum Creek realized accessibility to climbing was lacking in their community and wanted to address that problem by starting a climbing club that could bridge the socioeconomic gap for the students there.“We found that when we started the climbing club, there was this massive amount of interest.” says Adrian “We didn’t expect that, we ended up having to waitlist a lot of the kids, which was a bummer because our goal was to give access.”

The resounding success of the club inspired Kelli to focus her M-Term project on climbing.

During the last two weeks of every school year, teachers at Gypsum Creek get to propose experiential learning projects to their students and let them choose what they would like to pursue. These projects, dubbed “M-Terms”, allow students to connect their academic studies to real-world applications.

“I saw that there was enough interest, and enough kids had this as a passion, that I thought it would make for a great project.” Says Kelli, thinking back to the climbing club. “What if we had a climbing wall here? What if we could bring a climbing wall to our school, then it’s not only 14 kids, we can all join a climbing club?”

So she designed her M-Term to do just that. During the M-Term’s two weeks, her students would spend the morning climbing indoors, then return to school and work on a proposal for the district’s Building Facilities Committee.

“They did all of it! I laid out a structure to facilitate it, but in the end, it’s their project. Everything from designing the wall to choosing the materials, researching climbing wall manufacturers, even down to the number of auto-belays.” Says Kelli proudly. “They’re working out the budget, finding ways to fund and finance it, and in the end, they’re going to be the ones presenting it. I’m just here to make what they want come true.”

However, as Kelli scheduled the climbing days with her community partners, she ran up against cost as an issue. Even with the discounts they offered her students, she went over budget. So she started looking for grants that could cover that extra cost which is how she stumbled upon Project Send It. 

When we heard Kelli’s proposal, we immediately dove into our budget to see if we could grant any funds and how much. After a few back and forths amongst the team (helped by a quick video chat with Kelli), we decided to award her a $1,800 grant and connect her to whatever resources we had available to help her students build their wall.

I traveled out to Gypsum on the last climbing day of M-Term when the students were finally going to climb outside. I remember them quite literally running off the bus, calling dibs on getting to climb first. They welcomed me right in and started calling out shots for me to take with my camera. We hung around for hours, and it was like any other day at the crag: plenty of beta spraying, tears of frustration, and yells and cheers of success. The kids got back on the bus absolutely exhausted, recounting the routes they’d attempted and planning their return to the crag.

The work Kelli Adrian did to make this M-Term a reality is beyond commendable. She opened a door to climbing that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, and she did so while inspiring growth and learning in all of her students. 

When I asked the kids what their favorite part of M-Term was, I was met with an unexpected answer: budgeting.

“My parents had never taught me how to set a budget,” said one of the 6th graders (who likely had no concept of what they would need to budget for anyway) “…I feel like I could do that now.”

We could not have teamed up with Kelli to bring this project to life without your donations, so thank you for making climbing more accessible to the youth at Gypsum Middle School! 

Jefferson High School Spring Climbing Program

We finished up our spring climbing program with Jefferson High School last month and it was a great success! In the gym, we had several youths get top-rope belay certified and some of them felt confident in their skills to help out the newer climbers. We also were able to team up with Denver Mountain Guiding and got an outdoor in too!

Jefferson High Outdoor day

Latino Outdoors Outdoor Day

April snow couldn’t stop us, we reschedule for April 23rd and had a fantastic day soaking up the sunshine in Clear Creek Canyon. Overall, 20 kids and their families were able to get outside and climb thanks to you all amazing volunteers and Denver Mountain Guiding!

Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Ellie

Ellie has helped out with Jefferson High and always brought the stoke! 

  • What brought you to volunteer with PSI?

“As a former camp counselor, I’ve always loved spending time with kids and encouraging them to try new, fun activities. A sport like climbing can boost a kid’s creativity and self-esteem too, and I hoped to be able to help kids make the most of their experience.” 

  • What was a favorite moment from volunteering?

A few months in, I was working with a middle school student who was working to manage her fear of heights while making climbing fun for herself. After weeks of trial and error, a lightbulb went off for her, and things finally started to click. Watching her come so far was exciting, and really fulfilling. 

  • What were you most unsure about the first time you volunteered? How did you feel after?

I was unsure of when to offer praise. Typically, people tend to default to cheering their friends or climbing partners on when they achieve and succeed. But climbing wasn’t supposed to be about reaching a certain outcome for PSI participants; they’re meant to focus on having fun and learning something new each time they climb. After the first time I volunteered, I came back with a different mindset and cheered kids on at every stage of climbing, which helped them feel more encouraged too.

Volunteer Opportunities

  • We’re partnering with Struggle of Love this summer and need your help! 
  • Volunteers are needed at Ubbergribben Denver on the following dates this month:
    • June 21 and 28th from Noon – 1:30 PM!

Any volunteer questions can be sent to Logan at [email protected]