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Scholarship group makes college accessible for Latino DPS students

The Denver Scholarship Foundation has helped more than 1,600 students earn college degrees, receive financial aid and ongoing support to succeed in college classes.

DENVER — Thousands of Denver students who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford to go to college are getting a helping hand from a Denver organization that works to support low-income students to attain a college degree.

Deysi Macias is one of those students. While she was growing up, she didn’t realize where and how she lived would make a lasting impression on her future, but it's paved her way to success.

Macias lived in the Sunshine Gardens apartments in the Baker neighborhood and said they were a low-income family that struggled to make ends meet. However, she said her parents always stressed the importance of graduating from high school and getting a higher education so they would have access to better jobs.

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But at age 13, her life unexpectedly changed.

“My mom divorced my father, and that’s when our father walked out of our lives,” Macias said. “My mom became a single mom, and we became homeless. … We struggled a lot, and it was a lot of bouncing from home to home.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) scholar Deysi Macias said, "I never thought about dropping out, that was never in my plans."

Macias said her mom moved to the United States from Mexico at the age of 18, didn’t have an education and was having a difficult time providing for her three children. Macias and her siblings saw that their mom couldn’t get a good job because of her lack of education.

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She said that’s when her life changed again.

“We knew at that age what my mom was going through,” Macias said. “That was honestly the stage of my life when I was like, ‘I need to do better. I need to get a higher education.' ”

Credit: Deysi Macias

Macias and her siblings decided to rewrite their family history by going to college.

But in high school, she faced another challenge. She found out she was pregnant in her junior year but was still determined to get her diploma and a college degree.

She heard about a group called the Denver Scholarship Foundation from her older sister. The nonprofit foundation grants scholarships and provides resources to Denver Public Schools students who want to pursue a post-secondary degree.

Ranae Bellew is the programming director at the scholarship foundation. Bellew said at least 40% of their students are Latina, and 60% identify as Latinx.

“We are a need-based scholarship program,” Bellew said. “We’re specifically focused on supporting students … who need the financial support which historically is students of color in the community, and so that’s always been the structure of our organization.”

The foundation works with high school students in ninth through 12th grades at their Future Centers, located inside schools in the district. They offer resources like scholarships, financial aid and ongoing support through college to help them succeed.

Bellew said they offer that support so it’s not another burden for students who are facing multiple barriers in accessing higher education.

“We understand that in just a few years, 80% of jobs in Colorado are going to require some sort of post-secondary training,” Bellew said. “We knew that to really impact change and support low-income students successfully enrolling and completing, there needs to be a wraparound support to navigate those unknown systems.”

Credit: Deysi Macias
Deysi Macias (left) and her sister are living up to their childhood promise of earning their college degrees.

Both Macias and her sister are living up to their childhood promise of getting a higher education. Macias has graduated from high school and is taking online courses through CU Boulder, majoring in biochemistry.

Her older sister graduated with her college degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Macias' son Romero is now 20 months old. She said she wants to set a good example for him to pursue college after high school.

Credit: Deysi Macias
Deysi Macias and her son Romero

“Everything he sees, he’s going to learn, so I’m definitely doing everything for him,” Macias said. “I want him to see that education gets you places, education opens up the doors for many other resources, networking not only jobs but friends.”

Credit: Deysi Macias
Deysi (right) and her mom (left) with her son Romero on the campus of CU Boulder

Macias said her family struggled for years but with determination, they are pursuing their dreams as a family — with motivation from their mom.

“She’s really proud of me,” Macias said. “We’ve gone through struggles together, so this degree will definitely be for a family effort.”

Learn more about the Denver Scholarship Foundation.

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