DENVER — Wyatt Academy in the Cole/Whittier neighborhood has opened a Family Empowerment Center in the school. Their goal is to give back to their students and families who may be in need.
“We are a community hub,” said Co-principal Kate Mishara. “A place where families know that they can come for resources, for someone to talk to, for a smiling face or even just to feel a part of something greater.”
The Denver public school is home to about 200 kindergarten through 5th-grade elementary school students. About 96% of them qualify for free and reduced lunch, according to the school.
“We want them to love learning and love coming to school,” Mishara said. “And we all know that if there aren’t clean clothes to put on or shoes that fit in the morning to put on, coming to school can be a huge struggle.”
The school is located in a building that’s been in the neighborhood since 1887. Now the area is in transition leaving some families looking for help.
“As the neighborhood begins to change, our families have noticed that a laundromat that used to be 5 blocks away, now maybe the closest laundromat is now 10 or 15 blocks away,” Mishara said. “And food, it’s expensive to feed a family…we live in what’s been historically a food desert so there is an immediate need.”
The empowerment center is home to a laundromat, a clothing boutique, a grocery and computer lab, all at no cost for families through partnerships with local businesses like We don’t Waste, Denver Food Rescue and Conscious Alliance
“They have shoes, they have books…anywhere from babies to our school-age kids and it goes all the way up to adults,” said parent Arianna Benitez. “It helps us out so that we don’t have to worry about, ‘I don’t have money to go and spend for this expensive vest that I need for my interview tomorrow’.”
Benitez and her family moved here from the Pacific Northwest at the beginning of the school year and were looking for a school for her 8-year-old daughter Yanahli.
“For my family and myself and my kids, community is very important and so we are very attracted to folks that are warm and with good vibes that make you feel comfortable and safe,” Benitez said.
“At the beginning, everybody really just wanted to be my friend,” added Yanahli. “If you don’t know anybody and someone just comes up and says hi to you, they could want to be your friend.”
The school has even made strides in the district’s School Performance Framework (SPF) that measures student academic growth.
“There are years in the not too distant past where we were a red school, which is a low rating on the SPF scale,” Mishara said. “This year with all of the hard work and commitment, we’re really excited to be a green school and we know that that’s what our kids deserve.”
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Mishara said the school wanted to meet the needs of students and their families and offer a high-quality education.
“To see the growth that we’ve made and the commitment and effort that our families and our kids have continued to put in over time... It’s just such a beautiful thing and I think that our community will continue to grow and thrive and I’m really excited about what we can do in the future,” she said.
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