Jennie Merrigan Returns as Program Director

By Kelly Craugh

Jennie Merrigan recently joined our staff team as Program Director — but this isn’t her first stint with Scholars Unlimited. Jennie first joined our organization in 2007 as a Youth Development Instructor, then served as a Site Coordinator at several sites. In 2010, she was promoted to a Program Specialist position, where she worked until leaving us for a Senior Supervisor position with Denver Public Schools’ Department of Extended Learning.

Jennie also is a return Peace Corps volunteer, having served in Vanuatu as a teacher trainer, and she earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with an emphasis in elementary education, from the University of Northern Colorado.

Below, Jennie talks about why she decided to return to Scholars Unlimited — and about her enthusiasm for out-of-school-time programming.

What are your key reasons for coming back to Scholars Unlimited?

I truly enjoyed my work and time at Denver Public Schools. What I was missing at DPS was a mission that speaks to me. Equity in education is very important to me, and Scholars Unlimited’s mission to work with youth that need extra support helps drive me every day. Not only do we offer a safe place to be after school, but we also are providing educational and social-emotional learning opportunities. Our work helps close the opportunity gap. I was ecstatic to see the Program Director position become available, because it offered me an opportunity to continue working in a field that I am passionate about, with a mission that I love.

Why are you passionate about out-of-school programming?

The reason I enjoy the out-of-school-time (OST) field is because we have the opportunity to reach youth in different ways that the traditional school day cannot. With our low student-to- staff ratios, we have the opportunity to provide hands-on learning, to help students with their academic needs thru really targeted assistance, to help kids develop social-emotional assets, and to help youth realize their unlimited potential and be awesome humans in general.

What are your favorite aspects of Scholars Unlimited’s programs?

I love that Scholars Unlimited has embraced project-based learning (PBL) and I am excited to bring my knowledge of PBL to the organization. In my mind, PBL is the perfect complement to out-of-school-time programming, because is enables us to combine our literacy instruction with an infusion of learner-centered academics, critical thinking, and each student’s “voice and choice,” which are vital to OST programs.