Pagosa Community Initiative has high hopes for the future


By Hailey Sams | SUN Intern

The Pagosa Community Initiative (PCI) began in Pagosa Springs as a nonprofit last June and has been flourishing ever since.

PCI offers after-school programming during the school year and day camp during the summers.

“We really wanted to create youth development programming that is really relationship focused,” said Jenna Waite-Gannon, PCI executive director.

PCI is open to kindergartners through eighth-graders, and also hires high school interns. A paid internship for high schoolers offers opportunities for them to see possible fields and careers they could be interested in. 

“As they [the high school interns] are graduating, a lot of them are going into industries that are really close to what we’re doing,” Waite-Gannon said. “We have some that are going into mental health [and] some that are going to be teachers.” 

This year PCI will put an application out for high schoolers interested in interning.

PCI offers bus transportation and lots of activities that kids can choose from, Waite-Gannon explained. 

“We have a bunch of art supplies, we have a playground, and we have some movement-based things,” she said.

She explained, “We usually start the day with some sort of social-emotional education option to teach them about character development and how to be their best selves,” 

She also highlighted the many benefits and options the kids get through this program.

According to Waite-Gannon, “We’ve served 180 students this last year … about 85 percent of our kids are at risk, which means they have one or more adverse childhood experiences.” 

PCI has grown into many different programs for kids and their families, including access to therapists, extra people supporting the family, and, Waite-Gannon explained, “We have a family case manager that wraps around the family and helps them work towards goals together as a big unit … and that is where we have seen a huge difference, through relationship building.”

PCI is focused on providing support and aid to kids and families through any way they might need it. 

“The youth has other people that are super important to them outside of their family and that can help guide them and mentor them, and the family also has another person they can rely on for help, support, resource connection, sometimes financial support … a number of things,” said Waite-Gannon.

PCI has been a free program for the last year, but is starting to transition into a fee-program for sustainability in years to come. 

Its upcoming program will feature more adventures and travels, as this summer’s program has. 

“They’ve [the kids] gone to Piedra Falls, they’ve gone to the ice caves, they go to the river regularly and swim, they’ve done education at the geodomes … one of the things we’re trying to do is engage them with the local area and educate them about the local area and its history,” Waite-Gannon relayed. “Our after-school program this year, we’re going to try and work in that adventure component.”

She added, “We’re actually opening a … community learning center downtown at 550 Hot Springs Blvd. and that space is going to be a creative co-working and studio space.” 

The space will be open 24/7 and offers lockers and a place to work at any time. 

“We’re also gonna start doing community classes where we’ll do art classes and anything the community is interested in learning,” she said.

The fees from this program go to funding the Youth Development and Family Services program. 

PCI is currently attached to the Pagosa Peak Open School, sharing the warehouse while it is working to get its own space. 

“We’re growing quickly and definitely just need a little more space,” Waite-Gannon commented. 

With glowing responses from the kids and teachers, the program is showing to have a big impact in the community. 

“We regularly hear from teachers and other community members that they [the kids] are really great advocates for themselves,” Waite-Gannon said, “because they’ve learned how to communicate better, they work better with others, they’re more creative, they have a lot of growth in those areas … we see a big difference in their classrooms.”