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Cottonwood Institute’s Impact Ripples Out In 2010

People often ask me about the impact that Cottonwood Institute programs are having and I am reminded of a quote by Paul Loeb that we share with students at the end of our programs:

“We never know how the impact of our actions may ripple out. We never know who may be touched. That’s one more reason why, although the fruits of our labors can’t always be seen, they matter immensely.”

Here are a few ways the impacts of our programs have rippled out in 2010:

We served over 1,000 people, logged over 11,000 contact hours, and over 3,500 environmental service project hours through our educational programs, outreach programs, and volunteer projects.

We piloted new projects to connect diverse public school students to the outdoors, including the Cesar Chavez Organic Gardening Project, the Three Trees and a River Project, and the Music Survival Project.

The Earth Task Force implemented the first student-directed high school environmental summit in Boulder Valley School District, which was attended by over 70 students, teachers, school district, nonprofit partners, and county officials. They also flipped the switch on the $32,000 solar panel system they helped secure just before Earth Day 2010.

According to post-course survey data, 99% of our students would recommend our programs to other students.

“I was excited I had the opportunity to go on this trip because I have never been camping before! I liked our hikes, learning about nature and plants, and having fun. I can’t wait to see more bugs, caterpillars, and I am excited to go rafting on our next trip.” 6th grade West Denver Preparatory Charter School student from our Three Trees and a River Project.

“The Community Adventure Program was, without a doubt, one of the best classes I have taken at New Vista High School. The Community Adventure Program helped me understand more about my place in the world and how I want to save it. It has helped me understand the incredible potential and opportunity I have as a high school student to make a true difference in the world.” Community Adventure Program Alumnus

“Our son participated in the Endangered Wolves and Animal Tracking Project last summer and the Stone Age Survival Course the previous summer.  The experiences he had during these courses have shaped his development and have helped him grow into a environmentally and socially conscious teenager who understands the complexities of human interaction with the natural world and his place in this mosaic. He gained skills and knowledge that he now puts to use in other areas of his life.  For example, his experiences have made their way into his papers for school, his commitments and emerging world views, and have boosted his confidence.  In a culture that has lost many of its rights of passage for young men and women, the Cottonwood Institute provides the critical skills and experiences that allow young people to understand the world and their place in it.” Kate Cumbo, Cottonwood Institute Parent

“My 15 year old daughter participated in a Cottonwood Institute program this past summer.  It was one of the best things we have ever done…and I know she was transformed in many ways because of this trip – aware of her courage to go on such an adventure, pride that she persevered, discovery of strengths she hoped she had but hadn’t tested, and an added self esteem that came from within herself. Thank you for being a part of the journey that my daughter is on and know that you have made a very special impact on her!” Kathy Corcoran, Cottonwood Institute Parent

“One of my beliefs as a teacher of inner city students is to prepare them in all forms to graduate from high school and continue on to college. While students are working extremely hard academically every day, I also believe that it is important to provide opportunities for students to learn life skills as well. Working with Cottonwood Institute to provide life-changing experiences for my students in the form of environmental education and service-learning trips helped my students in so many meaningful ways.” Leigh Garrison, West Denver Preparatory Charter School Teacher

We are extremely proud of the new nonprofit and community partnerships we developed, including: I Have A Dream Foundation, West Denver Preparatory Charter School, Front Range Earth Force, Operation Military Kids, and the Slam Movement just to mention a few.

Finally, we accomplished all of this with 2 full-time employees, 15 contract instructors, and a limited annual operating budget!

A special thanks goes out to all of our students, parents, instructors, educational partners, volunteers, donors, supporters, and board members who helped make this all possible.


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  1.  Top 10 Stories That Helped Change The World In 2010 : Cottonwood Institute – Environmental Education, Service Learning, and Leadership Courses For Schools and Community Organizations Based In Denver, CO

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