‘Activity Fridays’ serves up programming for youth of all ages

Nevaeh Sandoval shouts out in joy as she rides the merry-go-round at the Ignacio Elementary School’s playground, while attending a Boys and Girls Club’s after school program in 2019.
Cassidy Tahlo plays with fellow BGC kids at Ute Park during the End of Summer BBQ.
SunUte Community Center is home to a swimming pool with two lap lanes, a hot tub, and sauna. Aquatics programming is popular amongst people of all ages within the community. The Aquatics Department offers swimming lessons, water aerobics, and hosts various specialty events.
McKayla Lee | SU Drum
McKayla Lee | SU Drum
Divine Windy Boy | SU Drum

The Ignacio School District moved to change the 2022-2023 school year to a four-day school week as a result of several surveys sent to the students, their families, and the community. Local youth groups and businesses quickly developed programming to aid students and families, providing activities and safe spaces for students every Friday throughout the duration of the school year. Multiple Tribal entities assist in providing programming for students to attend each Friday including SunUte Community Center and the Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. 

As the four-day schedule began, the team at SunUte Community Center worked diligently to plan programming for Ignacio School District students. SunUte’s Recreation and Aquatics departments played a big role in offering activities for students. In the beginning, students had the opportunity to try gymnastics, rock climbing, basketball, and volleyball along with free swimming in the pool area, swimming became the most popular program and is now the main activity offered on Fridays. 

In an interview with SunUte Community Center Director, Robin Duffy-Wirth, she spoke to the new programming aimed at students in the community and is pleased to have more youth utilizing the facility. “There were two groups, one would go in the pool one week and then go into the gym one week,” Duffy-Wirth said. “Our kids come swimming every Friday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.– [students] have been offered swim lessons and they love it; they love coming in and going swimming.”  

Aquatics Coordinator, Roman Vasquez, is grateful for all the students who come to utilize the facility and he looks forward to celebrating with them as the end of the school year approaches. “One idea I am having towards the end of the year – maybe doing a themed pool day, looking for some palm trees, give them a tiki day and just letting them relax,” Vasquez said. “It’s what makes us really happy is when the youth take advantage of what they have in this building–you could be having kind of a bad day waking up, then you see a kid smiling and enjoying playing foosball or swimming and it’s rewarding.” 

Vasquez goes on to mention that having more youth utilize the facility is what makes his job worthwhile. “It’s the reason I come into work, I love this job just because I get to see kids smile,” he said. “When they learn to swim, especially when they get the goal, it’s just amazing.”  

The Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe (BGC) has also had a large part in creating programming for youth in the Ignacio School District. When Activity Fridays was first introduced, BGC attended local schools on Friday mornings to offer various activities for students in addition to the afternoon club programming at the SunUte.  

Cassandra Sanchez, site manager for BGC, gave an update to the programming now offered for students since the beginning of Activity Fridays. “We started getting some questions from our parents about if we would offer all day club, because that would better meet their needs,” Sanchez said. “So, we had conversations with the school and SunUte about what that would look like and if that would be beneficial to them.”  

Sanchez also gave kudos to all who stepped forward to assist students and their families in this change. “Kudos to everybody who has been working on this, because I think it’s a big undertaking as a community to make sure that our youth have something to do on Fridays,” she said. “I know, it’s a big change for the school, and for everyone else who serves youth, as well as the [students]. I think it’s important that we’re there to support them.”  

In this schedule transition, tribal entities and local businesses worked together to create a plan to keep youth active and safe on Fridays every week. The action is a testament to the community’s strength and the drive to continue to uplift local youth in various ways — through arts, exercise, and education. For more information on the new scheduling curriculum, contact the Ignacio School District at 970-563-0500.  

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