After school programs give underserved students college skills



STRIVE Prep – Noel in northeast Denver is making college a reality for its students through programs that emphasize equitable development.

DENVER — STRIVE Prep – Noel is part of a network of community public charter schools that serves 3,800 students in 10 different schools across the metro area. Their belief is that every child deserves a high-quality education no matter where they live. 

The STRIVE Prep – Noel campus moved into its new building at 5290 Kittredge Street, serves the community in northeast Denver where the school’s principal Jay Gordon said is feeling more like home.

“This our first year at this building,” Gordon said. “The first week we were here, kids were afraid to touch the walls because they were like, ‘It’s a new building, I don’t want to mess up anything’.”

Their new building now has science and art labs – classes Gordon said the school couldn’t offer before.  The new space also has more windows, to help the students feel happier. It’s that stability of a safe space that Gordon said is important to his students.

“They’re coming from areas where students will come to me and say, ‘I didn’t sleep last night because of gunshots’ or ‘I didn’t sleep because of this and this in my family that happened’,” Gordon said. “So, it’s important for our kids to be here to feel safe and to leave that ‘outside’, outside and really focus on learning inside the building.”

STRIVE Prep – Noel is a 6th thru 8th grade middle school that’s making sure students are staying focused during school hours and after hours as well. They offer students after-school programs like their Gifted and Talented club with the goal of equitable development for all students beyond the classroom. It’s a goal the club’s coordinator Julie Keys has been emphasizing through educational projects.

 “They come in, they learn how to do the research, they learn how to put it together and the learn how to present what they have learned,” Keys said. “One of the ways to build equity is to recognize that our students are more than just academic talents, they are artists, they are leaders, they are actors, and those talents deserve to be recognized and developed as much as any other academic talents would be developed.”

Gordon said it’s the school’s a mission to break down barriers for his students.

“We have 98 percent Latino and probably 2 percent African American (students),” Gordon said. “My ultimate goal is for them to go to college because I understand that is the crux of where power and knowledge is.”

Students like 7th grader Nemo Mills said the Gifted and Talented program is helping her gain the skills needed to help her apply in the future to Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I love it quite honestly,” Mills said. “They encourage us to go to college and with the skills I maintain from just basically this gifted and talented program, I really think I could get into the college that I want to.”

The goal is to help students gain confidence and feel supported in new surroundings that Gordon hopes is preparing them for what’s next.

“I think stability is important,” Gordon said. “Kids need to be able to understand that they have a safe place, a reliable place with consistency and that’s the thing that we’re offering here.”

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