LETTER FROM LORII RABINOWITZ
While this annual report celebrates our most recent fiscal year, we would be remiss if we did not also address the unprecedented events of 2020 and their impact on all communities including our Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) community. DSF staff, board and associate board members, Denver Public Schools (DPS) students, DSF Scholars, donors and community partners have traveled a collective journey marked with strength and perseverance, and I am so incredibly proud and humbled to be a part of this organization. The dictionary defines the word remarkable as “worthy of attention”, and while the efforts put forth this year are highly worthy of attention and unlimited gratitude—to call this past year remarkable would be an understatement.
DSF kicked off its 2019-20 fiscal year with a new three-year strategic plan, To and Through 2022, focused on sustainability, connectivity, and visibility. We also intensified our internal equity and inclusion efforts, and were moved this past summer to develop a formal, written commitment (read more) in response to the social unrest and continued systemic racism that personally impacts our students, our staff, our partners, and supporters.
As a goal-oriented organization which measures impact both quantitatively and qualitatively, by March 2020, we were well positioned for a successful year. Our DSF College Advisors were in the final stretches of preparing our high school students for their transition to college, we were introducing an improved DSF Scholarship application, and our DSF Scholars were succeeding in their college journeys. We did not know that, almost overnight, our measurements of success would increase and change so dramatically.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we are celebrating success each day, with each other, our students and our partners — from small personal victories to organization-wide achievements. We were so fortunate to have the people, programs and processes in place to quickly transition to virtual program delivery—providing support in new and impactful ways.
Not surprisingly, our students and Scholars have redefined resiliency as they remain focused on their postsecondary goals while managing unforeseen challenges related to the pandemic and beyond. 2020 has been a challenging year for our students, yet they continue to inspire us each day with their words, actions, and determination. You can share in this inspiration through the insights of Albert Ursetta (read more), John F. Kennedy High School class of 2020 and DSF Scholar.
Additionally, we were thrilled to be featured in Forbes (read more) this past August in an article celebrating student potential and highlighting the ways in which DSF is helping students navigate through COVID-19 barriers to success.
As we move through our current fiscal year, we will continue to foster potential as we support DPS students to and through college completion. I thank the entire DSF community for its hard work and dedication to our mission and I share every success with each of you.
DSF VOTED AS TOP
WORKPLACE 2 YEARS RUNNING
Hover over the photos below to see fun facts about DSF.
DSF Employees connected through Buddy Groups, which brings together small groups of staff members from different areas of DSF to build friendships through lively discussion and activities.
GRATITUESDAYS AND BIG WIN WEDNESDAYS
DSF Employees Participated in weekly virtual Gratituesdays and Big Win Wednesdays which encouraged positivity, gratitude and recognition.
18 CULTURE BOOSTING EVENTS
DSF Employees enjoyed 18 culture boosting events, including BBQs, potlucks, and an excursion to the Denver Art Museum (all pre-COVID), hosted by DSF’s Culture Club, an employee-led group working to sustain a welcoming environment, increase connectivity, and strengthen DSF culture.
HALF DAY FRIDAYS
DSF employees received 2,124 hours of free wellness time thanks to Half Day Fridays throughout the summer months.
CELEBRATING WORK ANNIVERSARIES
This year we have 20 Proud DSF Staff Celebrating 3+ Years with our organization!
DSF staff operated 14 Future Centers serving 22 Denver Public Schools high schools.
DSF College Advisors worked proactively with 3,262 seniors and their families (57% of all DPS seniors in Future Center Schools).
DSF served TRIO Talent Search participants in 9-12 grade at 10 schools.
DSF served 2,556 9th-11th grade students at 17 schools.
DSF ADDRESSES “SUMMER MELT” AND HOW TO SUPPORT STUDENTS ON THEIR DEGREE PATH
Federico Rangel is a DSF College Advisor, helping college-bound graduates thrive academically and realize their dream of earning a college degree. This type of support is hard to find in the summer, when many students lose momentum.
Also known as “summer melt”, this phenomenon is prevalent across the country, with first-generation college students being most vulnerable. Nationally, up to 40% of college-intending students didn’t show up for their first day of fall semester in 2019.
Ensuring students have support from someone like a DSF College Advisor to tackle logistical challenges of enrollment and stay on track with financial aid deadlines can prevent summer melt. It’s not for lack of ambition that these students don’t go to college. They just need help checking all the boxes to get there.
DSF provided 1,760 scholarships to esteemed and determined Scholars in Denver in 2019-20.
DSF provided $4.5 million in scholarship dollars to graduates of Denver Public Schools pursuing a college education in 2019-20.
DSF surpassed $48 million in scholarships awarded to 7,676 Denver Public Schools graduates since the fall of 2007.
88% of Scholars were first-generation college students and 92% identified as students of color in the most recent 6-year cohort.
“I WANT TO LEAVE A PATH FOR THE NEXT GENERATION TO FOLLOW.”
Daniel Rivera-Ibarra will be the first in his immediate family to graduate from college. Throughout his post-secondary educational journey, he’s found a new way to define success. “I define success as realizing my full potential and helping others find theirs along the way.” For him, that’s what makes college worth the price tag.
Daniel is thankful for his support systems that helped him navigate challenges and define who he is as a student. Feel inspired by his passion and story by reading his article in The Hechinger Report.
83% of DSF Scholars are enrolled in college or have already graduated with a degree or certificate in the most recent 6-year cohort.
In 2019-20, DSF partnered with 31 technical colleges, community colleges and universities in Colorado to provide on-campus support for Scholars.
On average, as a part of our partnership, each year our Scholars receive $3 in additional financial aid from our College Partners for every $1 they receive from DSF.
DSF ALUMNUS TAKES LEADERSHIP SKILLS TO LONDON.
DSF Alumnus Bryant Burciaga’s sense of adventure took him all the way to London, England on a six-month assignment working as a technology analyst for Janus Henderson Investors, a global asset management company. During his time abroad he also spent time hiking, driving, and exploring European countries.
Since his graduation from University of Colorado Denver in 2015, Bryant has been a model DSF Alumnus. He serves on the Alumni Advisory Committee, presented at the Annual Gala, and during the Annual Leadership Conference. He believes adaptability, empathy, and sense of self guides him to successful leadership. DSF Alumni are achieving incredible accomplishments and giving back to Denver’s community.
THRIVING THROUGH TRANSITIONS: OUR RESPONSE TO COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent transition to remote learning for DPS schools and college campuses impacted all areas of the organization, with the greatest impact on the students we serve. Recognizing the importance of programming continuity and connectivity between DSF Advisors, DPS students, and Scholars, DSF made a significant shift in day-to-day operations and program structures last spring, transitioning all program services to virtual delivery. DSF Advisors continue to offer the same exceptional slate of services, but also increased their level of support to meet the growing needs of their students.
This high level of virtual advisement continued throughout the summer and fall. It has allowed DSF to develop improved strategies for student communication, identify best practices, and create new tools for students and their families to successfully navigate the often-complex processes of college planning, financial aid, and enrollment. The successes experienced by DPS students and DSF Scholars is a testament to their individual perseverance and hard work.
The successes experienced by DPS students and DSF Scholars is a testament to their individual perseverance and hard work. To the right are just a few celebratory highlights of the past year.
Last spring, DSF extended its DSF Scholarship application deadline by one month to ensure all eligible DPS seniors and DSF Scholars received the additional time and assistance needed to complete the application. DSF Advisors worked tirelessly, helping students and Scholars in completing this important application, in a new virtual environment, resulting in a total of 2,969 scholarship applications received, eight more than the previous year!
DSF saw its highest scholarship applicant to finalist yield in the last three years, meaning more students are persisting on their path to college completion. This year, 91% of incoming and continuing DSF Scholars fulfilled their DSF Scholarship requirements, compared to 86% the previous year.
DSF Advisors served their largest class of students this past summer in their transition from high school to college. Advisors served 1,374 students from the high school graduation class of 2020 through text messaging, video conferencing, engaging parents, and collaborating with financial aid offices and admission offices at DSF College Partner institutions.
At the start of the pandemic, DSF provided Advisors with a list of more than 100 essential needs-focused resources to help students and their families navigate and access a variety of services, including those related to food, housing, job loss, technology, mental health, and overall healthcare. DSF Advisors were able to refer over 200 students to the resources, close to home, that they needed.
Click each box below to explore highlights from our DSF community.
“DSF has allowed me to go to the college of my dreams! I wouldn't be able to afford the experience without it and I am so thankful.”
“If it wasn't for the aid and guidance from DSF, I wouldn't have achieved my dreams. As a first-generation Latina woman, this organization opened many doors. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what you do and helping students!” - Alexandra Lucia Carbajal
Alexandra Lucia Carbajal
“I am grateful to work towards the notion that “College is Possible” and even when working remotely gets tiring or hard, there are wins that keep me going”
“Despite the additional challenges of this past year, we are committed to our students and Scholars, and are inspired by their resiliency. They continue to thrive, follow their dreams, and persist toward college graduation.”
DSF Board Chair
“I believe in access to and support in education, which is why DSF’s work is so important to me. DSF supports students and Scholars to and through education and the workforce.”
DSF Associate Board Chair
On Wednesday, October 25, 2019 nearly 800 DSF Alumni, supporters, partners, staff, and board members came together to celebrate the achievements of our DSF Scholars during the 2019 Annual Gala. Keynote speaker Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children’s Zone, moved us with his remarks on the transformative impact of communities like ours coming together to support their students. Thanks to the Colorado Scholarship Initiative (COSI), every donation that night was doubled! DSF Scholar Lazarus West and younger brother Lawrence shared their story of friendship, perseverance, and success on their journeys to and through college.
DSF’s Annual Leadership Conference serves as a unique opportunity for students served by the organization to gain tools and knowledge to grow as leaders, while forging connections with their peers. February’s conference theme was Thriving Through Transitions, featuring sessions that equipped students with tools to prepare for a successful college to workforce transition to help continue development post-graduation. “If you really challenge yourself, you can truly change your world,” says Luis Benitez, the 2020 Annual Leadership Conference keynote speaker and Vice President for government affairs and global impact at the VF Corporation. He inspired DSF students to keep dreaming big and pursuing their goals through, to, and after graduation.
The University of Colorado (CU) Denver demonstrates exceptional innovation and collaboration to support DSF Scholars. “CU Denver goes above and beyond, year after year, to champion the dreams of DSF Scholars,” said Lorii Rabinowitz, DSF CEO. In recognition of all of their work, and this outstanding partnership, we are thrilled to share that CU Denver is DSF’s College Partner of the Year! Of DSF’s 31 partner institutions in Colorado, CU Denver ranks third in number of DSF Scholars served, with 289 DSF Scholars pursuing a degree at CU Denver in 2018–19. Since its founding in 2006, DSF has awarded over $7,300,000 in scholarships to DSF Scholars attending CU Denver.
Increased persistence and graduation rate for DSF Scholars to 83.1%, exceeding the three-year goal of 82.4%.
Increased storytelling and promotional assets by 38%, far exceeding the three-year goal of a 25% increase.
Deepened connections with all partnered stakeholders by 91%, far exceeding the three-year goal of a 25% increase.
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