Denver Scholarship Foundation – An InContext Opportunity
Colorado ranks 48th in the nation in college access for minorities; and even closer to home, the most recent academic research shows only 9% of ninth graders in Denver Public Schools (DPS) completed college within ten years. That’s where Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) steps in. The mission of DSF is focused on promoting college access and success for DPS students, which in turn supports the Colorado education system and Colorado’s economy.
Since its establishment in 2006, Denver Scholarship Foundation has made tremendous progress in bridging the gap between high school and college by awarding scholarships to qualifying students, offering comprehensive college advising services, and partnering with colleges to support student success. In the seven years that DSF has been active, it has awarded over $17 million in scholarships to more than 3,300 DPS graduates. Eight out of 10 DSF Scholarship recipients have completed their program or are still enrolled in college, making progress .
Denver Scholarship Foundation and Morgridge College of Education are closely connected in that they share a similar vision of college access and success. This past academic year, Danielle Sulick, Assessment and Evaluation Manager at DSF and MCE graduate, was an adjunct professor for the Higher Education program at Morgridge College of Education, teaching a class on Access and Opportunity. As part of the class, students participated in internships and volunteer opportunities to see Access and Opportunity InContext with high school students in the community. Half of Sulick’s class volunteered at DSF on both the access and success sides of the organization – working in the High School Future Centers advising students on college preparation, helping process scholarship applications in the DSF office, supporting FAFSA workshops, reminding students about important deadlines, and helping to plan DSF events among many other tasks. Ellery Kendrick, Volunteer and Alumni Relations Coordinator, explains the importance of the organization and volunteer’s efforts: “DSF is positioned as a beacon of light at the end of the educational tunnel, showing DPS students that there is an organization that will help them go to college if they work hard; showing them that it’s possible.”
The Denver Scholarship Foundation supports students to pursue all paths of higher education, Danielle Sulick elaborates: “We aim to create a commitment between the student and our organization – providing scholars the opportunity to go to college and the support to succeed within their program. We have partnered with 20 colleges across the state and have set up a support system at each institution – ranging from scholar cohorts to DSF advisors on campus – we know what our scholars need and figure out spaces where DSF and each college campus can fulfill our scholars’ needs.”
Sarah Pfeifer, an MCE student and recent intern at DSF, was encouraged by the success of the organization and its scholars: “It’s amazing how it all comes full circle – DSF scholars come back to help out with the organization. It’s such a strong way to impact incoming scholars – to see this person, who was in similar circumstances, go through school, graduate, and come back to support the organization and its systematic relationships.”
DU’s Higher Education program plans to continue to develop this community partnership with DSF, expanding service learning opportunities and tying them directly to coursework. MCE’s Ryan Evely Gildersleeve and DSF’s Danielle Sulick are leading the efforts in strengthening the relationship between the two organizations. There are also plenty of opportunities for MCE students in other academic programs to volunteer and intern at DSF. For example, DSF has opportunities for the Research Methods and Statistics students to serve as program evaluation interns – analyzing the relationships and DSF support systems at partnering Colorado colleges and universities. Community partners like Denver Scholarship Foundation provide InContext opportunities for MCE students, alumni, and community members to gain real world experiences of College Access and Opportunity and to be agents of change within our local Denver community.