Connect Us is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to guide all children to develop positive relationships & to promote social inclusion.
Connect Us was founded in 2009 by Stephanie Schiff, whose 5-year-old son was struggling socially. She observed that while his classmates were being invited to birthday parties and developing friendships, her son was withdrawing from his peers and family. This prompted her to visit his recess. She was alarmed by what she discovered: Cliques, bullying, and social isolation were beginning as early as kindergarten! She watched her socially awkward son make attempts to play with peers, but he was rejected or ignored. She feared that if this rejection continued, her son would become vulnerable to bullying, low self-esteem and depression. Fueled by his yearning for friendships and her determination to create a safe play environment for children, Schiff established Connect Us.
The growth of Connect Us since we piloted our first summer camp program 11 years ago has been phenomenal. In the past few years, we've initiated several new programs.
-Partnering with Denver Public Schools to provide recess facilitation in multiple schools.
-Completing annual studies with DPS's support to access program results and evaluate kindergartners.
-A new, 2nd summer camp location at Lowry Elementary
-Have secured multiple year grant-funding for residents of Denver, enabling us to offer many more program scholarships. Over 80% of our program participants attend on scholarships.
-Youth Volunteer Training Program for Jr Facilitators.
-Connect Us launches careers! We have partnered with the University of Colorado, Denver and Metro State University to provide internships for graduating students interested in child-service careers
--Connecting Teens: Teen social groups are broken down by 6th-8th graders and 9th-12th graders.
--Our newest endeavor: Remote Social Groups- connecting kids with their peers in remote, age-based groups, so children can still interact with guidance even during a pandemic.
"The Connect Us staff is highly skilled at helping children cultivate relationships with their peers. They offer a proactive approach to promoting social intelligence by working with children in "real time situations" using child-directed, physical play to increase resiliency, flexibility, self-confidence and negotiation skills."
- Dr. Mary Shay, Principal
Cottonwood Creek Elementary School
"Since Connect Us our son's confidence and self-esteem have exploded! He has changed from being a quiet observer; reluctantly joining in activities to an active leader among his peers."
- Dr. & Mrs. Arthur L. (Children Attend Cottonwood Creek Elementary)
"Within a few short weeks, we have seen both our kids' confidence grow. Our son, who has always made excuses to avoid doing things is now not only willing, but wanting to go out and try new things. This is exactly what we needed for our kids."
- Karn & Rose B. (Children Attend Cottonwood Creek Elementary)
"My girls were respected for exactly who they are, how they are. Each child is unique and the counselors at Connect Us take the time to learn what each one of them is about."
- Marisa H. (Children attend Cottonwood Creek Elementary)
"Connect Us doesn't do doormats! They empower kids to express their feelings, confront unfair play and to stick up for others."
- Laurie R. (Children Attend Dry Creek Elementary)
These folks are AMAZING and have really helped my youngest with the challenges she faces. For the first time EVER, she has a place she actually WANTS to go, and looks forward to coming to camp. What you've done in just a few short weeks has already made a difference for us at home.
- Shar G. (Children attend Bear Creek Elementary)
"My son is on the autism spectrum and my daughter is gifted so it is usually a big challenge finding activities that they can both participate in. This camp was the perfect fit for our family. I would highly recommend Connect Us to other families."
- Susan S.
"At the beginning of the school year both our boys, ages 6 and 8, were struggling socially. It was heartbreaking to see this and not know how to "fix" the problem. We were so lucky to find Connect Us. They gained confidence and learned strategies that have empowered them with the tools they need to blossom."
- Sandra and Eyal Y. (Children attend Heritage Elementary)
"When my son, Justin entered the social skills group at Connect Us, he had social, communication and behavioral issues. Now, my son can play with other children and enjoys this time. We saw significant improvements in communication, emotional reaction, happiness and self-confidence. It is a deep joy to witness the social life that Connect Us fosters. It has only been 8 weeks and my son has improved so much. I always wanted a group like this and never could find one. I cannot recommend Connect Us highly enough."
- Laura S. (Child attends Indian Hills Elementary)
"The biggest thing for us was that both our guys could attend - not only my Asperger's kid, but little brother too. This helps to unite them as a team and make our oldest feel "typical." They both seemed to have a better social awareness of the children around them - something lacking the older one because of his Asperger's and in the younger one because of his age. We would (and DID) recommend them to everyone we meet."
- Kim L. (Children attend Green Mountain)