The Denver Scholarship Foundation is making college possible for thousands of students in our community.
For many students in Denver, continuing their education beyond high school doesn't seem like a viable option. Most often, it's not low grades or lack of extracurricular activities keeping them from pursuing their dreams. There are thousands of intelligent, hard-working individuals facing the most intimidating barrier to college of all -- they think it just isn't possible.
But the Denver Scholarship Foundation is changing that. We're making a postsecondary degree possible for Denver's students.
The Denver Scholarship Foundation is making college possible for thousands of Denver students. Here is Remberto's and ChukwuFumnunya's story.
Evan Romero sits in the conference room on the thirty-fourth floor of a downtown Denver building. If you look out the west-facing conference room windows, you can overlook the 16th Street Mall or gaze on the snow-capped Rockies.
“I don’t get this view every day,” Evan said. “But, I never thought I would have this view ever.”
Evan, a Denver-native, grew up in southwest Denver in a single-parent household. Opportunity seemed out of reach, a distant gleam in the sky. Now he works as an auditor for Ernst and Young (EY), a global Big Four accounting firm.
“Evan really understands accounting,” University of Denver professor Jacqueline Eschenlohr said. “He has an innate ability to excel in this area.”
His path to EY, though, was muddled with uncertainty and obstacles that had to be overcome. From the time his parents divorced through his senior year of high school, he would embark on a path that could make college seem impossible.
Evan is a part of a growing workforce created, in part, by the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF). A recent Pell Institute study revealed every dollar invested in a student supported by DSF yields more than nine times that amount in the form of taxes returned to the Denver community.
Like many DSF Scholars, Evan is the first in his family to go to college. In fact, over 80 percent of all DSF Scholars are among the first to attend college.
His dad, Thomas, kept the family of five afloat on an electrician’s salary. But, when he and Mary divorced, life for Evan changed in many ways.
“We had a house, you know?” Evan said. “We didn’t have much, but we had more than some people.”
Evan and his siblings spent many mornings figuring just how to get to and from school and what to eat that day.
“We were forced to grow up a little bit,” Evan said. “My mom didn’t have time for everything,” Evan said. “So we would have to figure out if we had to take the bus to school or get a ride. Sometimes we didn’t know what we would eat.”
As stress built, Evan fell in with the wrong group of friends who distracted him from what he needed to be doing. As his personal struggles continued to mount, his future began to fade. Micah Sturr, then a teacher at Southwest Early College (SWEC), became aware of Evan’s distractions and urged him to regain focus.
“If it weren’t for my teachers at Southwest Early College I wouldn’t have made it,” Evan said. “I was never a bad student. I just became negatively influenced.”
After Sturr’s urging, Evan realized that he had the opportunity to use school as a medium to create change. He visited a DSF College Advisor at SWEC who helped him navigate the complicated college applications and financial aid process.
“My mom used to tell me ‘shoot for the moon, and if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars,’” Evan said. “That’s what I had to regain.”
With help from DSF and his teachers and mentors at SWEC, Evan enrolled at the University of Denver and began taking general business courses. He soon began to show an adept ability at accounting, which his professors began to notice.
“I noticed Evan really understanding accounting,” Eschenlohr said. “I urged him to major in accounting because he has an innate ability.”
Evan took his professor’s advice and began studying accounting where he became a top student. His ability in accounting coupled with personal characteristics pushed him to the top of his class.
“Evan is very gracious and he works terrifically in group settings,” Eschenlohr said. “He shares the limelight.”
Nearing the end of college life, Evan began exploring career opportunities. Eschenlohr encouraged Evan to attend a DU career fair specifically for accounting students. Evan met with representatives from the Big Four accounting firms, eventually interviewing for a position with all four.
“EY reached out to me in a special way,” Evan said, “and I’ve always liked EY.”
After some considerable thought, Evan accepted EY’s offer, and currently works in the Assurance service line as a business auditor. “It’s not my dream job, but it’s the first step,” Evan said. “It’s for my family – to show everyone that it is possible.”
At 22-years old, Evan’s goal is to be selfless. His career and his dream job is to be able to give back to all those who helped along the way. He wants to contribute to his community and be an example to those like him.
His path, a winding path full of the lowest lows and some of the highest highs, is not complete. But, because of his hard work and support from a teacher in Denver Public Schools, a professor at DU, and an advisor with DSF, Evan is making a difference in Denver, proving that anything is possible.
Speaking to a 150 observers, DSF Scholar Desarae White said, "Because of my education and because of DSF, I am making a difference in our community. That’s the power of the possible."
A part of DSF's 2015 Graduation Celebration, Desarae explained that her path through college, like many DSF Scholars, was not always certain. After graduating from Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College in 2010, Desarae enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder. She stayed for one year."
I took a different path to earning a four-year degree," Desarae said.
With assistance from DSF, Desarae began taking classes at the Community College of Denver where she eventually graduated with an associate's degree in psychology. As a participant in DSF's SEED program, she then transferred to CU Denver where she graduated last month with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
For Desarae, though, college is only the beginning.
While studying at CU Denver, Desarae began working part-time at the Excelsior Youth Center in Aurora. With two psychology degrees, Desarae still works with the Excelsior Youth Center where she supervises and mentors young women who are victims of physical or sexual abuse.
Desarae exhibits the power of the possible. Her persistent pursuit to complete college pushed her to success, and now she works to make a difference in our community.
That's the power of the possible!
Our unique, three-part program for college success has been nationally recognized for its effectiveness.
We work proactively with all DPS seniors at our Future Centers located inside DPS high schools. Each Future Center is staffed by a full-time DSF College Advisor who guides students through the college application and financial aid processes.
Together with our partners and DPS, we reach about 17,000 students and their families each year.
We award need-based scholarships that can be as much as $13,600 over four years to DPS graduates attending college or technical school in Colorado.
To date, we have awarded $25 million in scholarships to nearly 4,500 students.
We partner directly with colleges to provide our scholarship recipients with extra financial aid and ongoing support to help them succeed and ultimately graduate.
For every $1 awarded by DSF to our scholarship recipients, our partner colleges award an average of $2 in additional financial aid. They also provide critical support services, such as mentors, special seminars and tutors to help our scholars succeed.
These strategies are working well for our mostly first-generation scholars – Over 1,000 Scholars have graduated from college or technical school.
"DSF has thoughtfully designed a strategy that strengthens the network of support for students. We believe this approach has the potential to inform other partnerships between nonprofits and higher education institutions, and that it will ultimately result in higher levels of educational attainment – especially for students from low-income backgrounds.”
Click below for more information about how DSF is using its scholarship as leverage with students, partners and colleges to ensure student success.
The cornerstone of our college access program is our partnership with Denver Public Schools. Not only does the district provide us with a permanent classroom for each of our Future Centers, it invests financially in our program.
In addition, we collaborate with other organizations to share resources, coordinate programming and ensure students success. Our college access partners include:
Our College Partners ensure that DSF Scholars receive additional financial, academic and social support to help them succeed on campus and graduate.