School Site Visits

Attendees could choose from one of five themed school site visits. These visits deviated from the schools-only itineraries of previous National Forums, maximizing homegrown ventures in a marketplace hamstrung by school facility challenges. We intentionally broke into smaller groups to go into greater depth at each site.

Following our visits, groups rejoined for lunch to debrief on observations and lessons learned. 

 

 

A note on transportation: HopSkipDrive

Like an “Uber for kids,” HopSkipDrive offers prearranged visits for kids to get to and from school when other transportation isn’t feasible. The program is loaded with safety features including extensive driver interviews and background checks, and live-monitoring of every ride. 

Attendees of the first three tours took HopSkipDrive to and from their destinations. Donors were encouraged to talk to their drivers about their work and experience this new possibility from a kid’s point of view.

 

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  • New Legacy Charter School is a public charter school serving expectant mothers and young parents ages 14 to 20 and their children. The high school program combines academic courses with parenting strategies to prepare students with the skills they need to pursue higher education, enter the workforce, and care for their children. The school’s Early Learning Center caters to children ages 6 weeks to 5 years with a comprehensive early child development program. 
  • The Learner Advocate Network, a project of ReSchool Colorado, helps parents navigate the complex landscape that encompasses both schools and enrichment opportunities. Learner Advocates work directly with students and their families to identify their values and goals, build relationships and support networks, and increase their capacity to make meaningful choices about their education. In supporting families, Learner Advocates assist in school visits, ask pointed questions, and assuage concerns based on a learner’s individualized needs. Saint Joseph Hospital, a founding employer partner, offers Learner Advocates as an employee benefit for working parents. Attendees met parents and hospital leaders to learn how the program works, how both parents and the hospital benefit, and the impact on the lives of families. 

 

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  • Prodigy Ventures, named for the belief that young people are endowed with exceptional abilities, offers multi-year apprenticeships to motivate youth and help them realize their self-worth. This is especially true for those who haven’t found success in typical learning or work structures. During their 12-18 month apprenticeship, participants acquire industry skills and networks they need for upward mobility. They also receive in-depth leadership training to potentially contribute to their employer’s expansion. Past apprentices have gone on to pursue post-secondary education, secure meaningful employment, and become community leaders within Northeast Denver.
  • CareerWise Colorado is an apprenticeship program modeled off of the Swiss system where high school students receive rigorous training while receiving hands-on work experience. More than 100 companies across Denver hire apprentices to address long-term talent retention challenges by grooming current apprentice supervisors for leadership roles. Over the course of the three-year apprenticeship, students earn an industry certification, cultivate a professional network, and secure the opportunity to earn debt-free college credit. CareerWise offers apprenticeships in five career pathways: advanced manufacturing, information technology, financial services, business operations, and healthcare. Attendees visited Intertech Plastics, an advanced manufacturing environment where apprentices can choose between traditional roles like accounting or technical roles that design, procure, and construct new technology. 

 

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  • Launch Network operates as a semiautonomous learning community within Stedman Elementary School for kids who’ve experienced trauma and have difficulty learning in a traditional classroom. Launch seeks to meet marginalized students’ most pressing needs by emphasizing social-emotional learning and lowering educator-student ratios to enhance instruction time across subject areas. Teachers devote significant time to engaging families and a diverse network of community partners in children’s development, and allow kids to stay in the program over multiple years to provide continuity and stability. 
  • The Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization (YEBO) is an in-depth, multi-year media makerspace partner for schools that helps youth surface and define their voice and discover their passions. Through media centers and mobile media labs, students explore, develop, and operate media businesses and other creative enterprises through the lens of social justice and civic engagement.

 

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  • The HadaNou Collective (HNC), bridges the gap between education entrepreneurs who are tackling shared challenges in different areas of Denver to coordinate programming and share resources. With the vision that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, HNC is harnessing Denver’s creative drive by developing these leaders and coordinating their work to maximize system-level impact. 
    • One such HNC partner is Compass Makerspace in conjunction with Compass Montessori School. A public P-12 charter, students take on “occupations” at the farm, kitchen, and store that support a “working village” of 150 students at the middle school level. The school offers indoor and outdoor education, multi-age classrooms, and a self-paced curriculum focused on project-based and hands-on learning. In addition to connecting work with academics, the Montessori model emphasizes community citizenship, physical health, emotional wellness, service learning, and peaceful resolution. 

 

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  • mindSpark Learning leverages industry connections to support educators and students in developing the dynamic skills they need to become viable in the workforce talent pipeline. mindSpark encourages educators to think more like entrepreneurs and structures programs to involve industry participation at every level. mindSpark’s professional learning experiences and institutes cover a variety of areas, including STEM education, equity-centered design, computer science, school leadership.
    • Among the best examples of mindSpark’s work are at Northglenn High School. The program features an equity-based STEM education model that resides at the intersection of industry and K-12 education. Attendees witnessed firsthand how the K-8 (STEM Launch) and high school (Northglenn) programs work with industry and community partners to not just close the achievement gap, but actually reverse it. We heard from students and educators at STEM Launch and STEM Lab, products of the mindSpark partnership.