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Cradle to Career - Aspen to Parachute

Building Youth Success from Aspen to Parachute
Beneath the surface of a seemingly well-heeled, thriving region in a breathtaking natural setting, lies a persistent opportunity gap, that leads to an achievement gap, between those with extreme wealth and privilege, and those whose families struggle daily to survive. Aspen Community Foundation (ACF) embraced the strategy of Collective Impact and launched the Cradle to Career Initiative (CCI) in 2012 to shift our region’s approach to addressing the complex, quiet crisis facing many children and youth from Aspen to Parachute. The CCI partnership seeks to ensure that children are ready for kindergarten and graduate from high school ready for college and career.

On its 30th anniversary in 2010, Aspen Community Foundation leadership reflected on the impact it had on the region since its founding. Though ACF knew that it provided much-needed support to many nonprofits that did excellent work, it also knew that sustainable impact required a new way of thinking.  As a result, In 2011, ACF commissioned an issue paper by JVA in Denver, to gather regional, baseline data that revealed the scope of work ahead. ACF leadership understood that to address the issues outlined in the paper, it needed to work differently with nonprofit, school, government, business, and community partners to effect meaningful change and positive outcomes.

Cradle to Career
Thus, ACF adopted the strategy of Collective Impact and launched the Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative. ACF convened multiple stakeholders over 19 months and serves as the backbone of CCI. The primary work of the backbone is to guide the vision, build networks, collect data, mobilize funding, advance policy, and communicate impact. As the backbone, ACF facilitated numerous meetings with multiple stakeholders to establish four primary goals -  All children:
                   1. Are ready for kindergarten
                   2. Possess the life and social skills for success
                   3. Are academically successful
                   4. Are ready for college and career

Wiith these goals articulated, the stakeholders organized into Action Teams and co-wrote the
Action Plan in 2014. This is a living document that is officially revised every two years based on progress and lessons learned. Initial work included Action Teams developing projects to fill gaps. The 2016 Closing Gaps Report provided progress data on early projects. As CCI has matured, the Action Teams have evolved into networks with the focus on building the systems necessary for sustainable impact.

The 2018 Closing Gaps Report shows the progress on the CCI goals and indicators since the 2014 Action Plan. 

Download the most recent Data Dashboard

COVID-19 and Cradle to Career

The COVID-19 pandemic demanded that ACF realign its focus to move quickly to respond to urgent community needs. Now that the crisis is subsiding, ACF and its partners are moving ahead with new strategies to advance youth wellbeing in Cradle to Career’s focus areas. Cradle to Career has provided the platform and momentum that has made our pandemic response efforts successful. Relationships and trust with nonprofits, schools, government and the community have never been stronger. This has primed the pump for Cradle to Career to continue: partners are ready, public will is favorable, and the need to support youth and families is greater than ever.
"We are grateful for the innovative and collaborative work that the Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative is doing to build youth success and then to measure the results. We commend the Aspen Community Foundation for its leadership and applaud the region's citizens for supporting their youth in this visionary way."
John Hickenlooper,
 Former Governor of Colorado
“It’s a big idea, a paradigm shift. It has taken a while to turn an idea into action.  It has really become a powerful, long-term process. And process is just as important as outcome.” 
– Mike Kaplan
CEO Aspen Skiing Company
ACF Board Treasurer

Cradle to Career Resource Library