Gemstone Climbing Center opened its doors November 2017 and has quickly had a positive impact on the Magic Valley. Gemstone announces its new partnership with United Way of South-Central Idaho to create a "Community School" for area children and families. This is an opportunity for scholarship programs providing financial assistance for classes (climbing, obstacle course racing, yoga), youth day camps, or Gemstone memberships. This program will also support Gemstone and United Way's mission to provide after-school activities to community schools with a partnership with the YMCA. Area businesses and community members are welcomed to financially support, through a tax-deductible United Way donation, these non-traditional programs to continue to offer opportunities for youth and families.
With financial and community support from the Twin Falls Optimist Club, Gemstone piloted the initial scholarship program for 6 students from Bridge Academy, the Magic Valley's Alternative Middle School. Gemstone and Bridge Academy staff tracked students' school and climbing class behaviors to determine the benefits of being part of a climbing program, if any. Teachers, counselors, and coaches observed solid improvements in students' physical abilities, classroom engagement, and disciplinary records.
"Depression hit me at a pretty young age, and it kept getting worse and then came the anxiety," says Halie (age 13 from Bridge Academy). "When I started climbing at Gemstone it was like an hour of vacation time away from my own bad thoughts. Climbing to me is a time to focus on the things I can control and help get that confidence back and my own mind. Climbing is an escape from all those worries and a learning lesson on how to control your choices and yourself and how your choices affect your life."
"Climbing has changed me as a person," says Margaret (age 13 from Bridge Academy). "Physically I have never felt so confident and positive with my body...I used to flip out on people super easy but now I just walk away because I know if I mess up, I will lose what I love most which is climbing. Each time I go I feel better and better."
After the first 6-week session of climbing school both girls graduated from seventh grade. They couldn't wait to go back to Gemstone to climb. The student's teachers explained that these kids frequently talked about climbing and maintained good behavior to maintain their eligibility for the scholarship. "I want to thank the (Twin Falls Optimist) club that has been supporting us and making it possible for the kids like me to be able to find a new passion... I am willing to do service work to maintain my scholarship", states Margaret.
"Success isn't about being perfect. It's about never giving up," says Lucy Wills, counselor at Bridge Academy.
To continue to provide financial assistance to the youth of this community we are offering marketing opportunities to local businesses with 100% of the tax-deductible sponsorship going towards the Gemstone Climbing Fund through United Way. United Way has graciously waived all administration fees. Gemstone offers other opportunities for youth to independently earn a portion or all their climbing dues through volunteer community service led by Gemstone Staff. By providing these opportunities, youth are better able to place a sense of value on their new climbing education and help the community with their service.
"These kids are benefitting physically, mentally, and emotionally by being part of this climbing program. The biggest takeaway these kiddos are getting, and might be searching for, is finding their place in our community...a place to escape from their norm," says Justine Greene, Gemstone's Program Director.
Being part of a climbing gym doesn't just open new opportunity for physical satisfaction. The Boys & Girls Club stated that 70% of the kids they serve do not fit the "normal" child participating in the "normal" sports such as soccer, football, basketball, wrestling, and baseball. Many kids are lost and haven't found their place. At Gemstone, they will find a second home. We have a fully inclusive atmosphere where every age, size, and ability can thrive and grow physically, emotionally, and mentally. We have found that many of these kids just need a place to go and be welcomed and feel encouraged. That is exactly what the Gemstone Community offers.
As this is a new program, our funding is limited. However, we are working diligently to raise funds through in-house advertising opportunities, donations, and so much more.
If you are interested or know someone who would benefit by being partially or fully sponsored to enter our programs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.