DENVER — In 2014, the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation (CIHAD) was looking for a chance to make an impact on Colorado students by partnering with the new STRIVE Prep – Ruby Hill, a K-5 public charter school in southwest Denver. The school was new at the time, and five years later their partnership is still going strong.
“Our focus is on getting kids prepared to go to and through college,” said Principal Alexa Mason. “We have 528 students here, about 75 percent of our students are English language learners and most of our students are from right here in our neighborhood.”
CIHAD works to make sure that all children have the opportunity to pursue higher education and achieve their dreams. The non-profit empowers students (“Dreamers”) in low-income communities to graduate from college by giving social, emotional and academic skills to succeed along with financial support to remove barriers.
“We want kids to have everything that a suburban student would have access to,” said CIHAD President Rachel Gazdick. “Because kids cannot achieve until they have access to the same tools and experiences that other students have.”
"We have two teachers in every classroom so that we can really tailor our instruction to meet the needs of every single one of our students,” Mason said.
The school’s goal is to make sure students are safe and classes are small to ensure learning throughout the day before and after school.
“In the normal school day, we are doing reading and math and the things that a normal kind of school day includes,” Mason said. “I think a lot of our kids as they are growing up are finding what really interests them, what excites them, things that they know they want to be when they grow up and these after-school clubs really allow them the opportunity to explore those interests and to really find something they can connect with.”
The after-school program teaches subjects like Robotics, Aviation, and even yoga with the goal of creating pathways for students to choose a career.
“When you stay with kids, you wrap your arms around them for close to 15 years, you can really put them on a path that they want to be on,” Gazdick said.
“I want to be a veterinarian," said 5th grader Alyana Zertuche-Morua. “And I want to help many animals and be an activist by showing people that animal cruelty is something that shouldn’t be happening in our community.”
“When I get older, I will already have these different types of skills,” said 5th grader Diego Guerrero. “And I will be prepared if there is a barrier in the way.”
The partnership is giving the students a chance to achieve in a school that’s helping to knock down those barriers that students once faced.
“Many of our kids struggle with people having low expectations for them so the fact that this school has very high expectations…kids reach the expectations that are set for them,” Gazdick said.
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