In May, Gates Family Foundation joined forces with a coalition of partners to launch the COVID-19 Education Innovation Fund to address COVID-19’s dramatic impact on Colorado’s schools and students and to support innovative approaches to learning.

The Fund’s $335,000 was distributed over three months on a rolling basis to promote resilient education systems and stimulate new approaches to meeting learners’ needs.

Below is a detailed description of grantees, as well as an overview of $24,000 (including $15,000 from the Fund) that was distributed directly to 71 Colorado families statewide, to help cover costs for their children’s summer learning through the family learning dollars program managed the RESCHOOL.

COVID-19 Education Innovation Fund Grantees

(Listed in alphabetical order)

Colorado Association of Black Professional Engineers and Scientists (CABPES) is a nonprofit that encourages Black youth and youth of color to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A $5,000 award will allow CABPES to adapt its STEM programming led by a majority of BIPOC professionals to a hybrid model. Virtual classes will include aerospace engineering, biomedical science, and civil engineering.

Climb Higher Colorado & the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE) are partnering to convene school and district partners that have expressed a commitment to co-creation and side-by-side learning with students and families. Together, system partners will utilize a $10,000 award to assemble a design team to test new ways of operating. Teams will have an emphasis on representation and leadership from the voices and perspectives of students and families most at the margins.

Cortez Charter Collective is a shared initiative of Kiva Montessori Charter School and Battle Rock Charter School in southwest Colorado. Both schools are small in size, and neither has adequate funding to support an on-site school counselor. The schools will partner together to hire a restorative justice coordinator that will work across both campuses to ensure students’ social and emotional needs are met during this time. Funding will be used to train the coordinator and staff at both campuses in restorative practices. $8,000 award

Denver Independent School is an umbrella school for K-12 home-based learners. The school provides an innovative educational ecosystem creating solutions to the economic, cultural, and systemic barriers preventing Black families from accessing their right to home-educate their children. A $20,000 award will support staffing to build out the organization and stipends to participating families.

The Dream Keepers Project is a youth leadership development initiative in Morgan County launching a near-peer mentorship program for incoming immigrant and refugee high schoolers. A $20,000 grant to the program will partner multilingual CSU college students with high school students to support engagement and transitions to college and career during the 2020-21 academic year.

FaithBridge Community Liberation Academy is a community initiative that will provide supplemental instruction virtually to support students at risk of falling behind during the 2020/2021 school year. A $10,000 award will help FaithBridge leverage and strengthen its community partnerships to ensure students and families are supported and empowered with resources during this time.

E Movement is a collaboration of more than 20 organizations that created the nation’s first whole-child environmental literacy guidelines in 2016. A $5,000 award will support the development and dissemination of a bilingual database of virtual programming designed to facilitate whole-child learning for grades K-8.

Edgewater Collective will provide summertime pop-up lunch and literacy lessons for grade K-3 students, and also create opportunities for student-teacher connections to bridge the remote learning divide. This $4,000 award will also support the Collective in evaluating this pilot program, which it plans to adapt as a viable model in the fall if remote learning continues.

Fremont Multi-District Initiative is a collaboration between three local Fremont County public school districts and Pueblo Community College. The partnering organizations recognized that resources are often inequitably distributed across school districts in the area, and are working to reinvent the way a region can cooperatively utilize resources and sustainably provide an outstanding educational experience for rural students. A $15,000 award will support this joint effort.

Fueling Youth Reading is Literacy in Training is a program that instructs high school students from DSST Montview in literacy training and matches them with an elementary student for one-on-one literacy tutoring. A $6,250 award will provide support to the recently launched LIFEHACKS program, which transitioned its learning sessions online.

Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center is a nonprofit located in the rural community of Cedaredge. Each year, the center leads 30+ art-based classes for community youth to supplement offerings at local elementary and middle schools. A $2,700 award will support three art programs to engage students both virtually and in-person during the summer.

Greater Than One Collective (GTO) is a collaborative of organizations working to create a community-, home-, and school-connected learning network with students and families at three Park Hill schools. A $15,000 award will support the collaborative to adapt its model so that it can continue to provide wraparound support to 40+ families and partner with schools on community-centered redesign.

Heart and Hand Center is a nonprofit supporting youth in Northeast Denver through academic support, health and wellness education, social emotional skills, family engagement, and creative expression. A $10,000 award will support a program modeled after learning pods available to more affluent families. Heart and Hand will replicate pods to serve low-income families and the children of educators.

Highline Academy for Virtual Learning is a collaboration between five charter schools in Denver to develop and implement an entirely online remote learning option for the 2020-21 school year. A $5,000 award will help the virtual academy serve 200+ students in grades K-5 with an innovative program focused on meeting all students’ needs.

Photo courtesy of the Hustle Collective

Photo courtesy of the Hustle Collective

The Hustle Collective is a group of educators and students that will pilot a new model of virtual, student-led learning with 75+ students (ages 13-18) in the Denver metropolitan area. Students will work with mentors and peers to set a goal and develop and execute self-directed learning plans. A $15,000 award will support this pilot project, which was initiated at Empower Community High School in Aurora.

Isaura Ibarra is a recent high school graduate and leader with the Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization (YEBO) creating a student-led program to engage students nearing graduation through media and the arts. A $7,500 award to the pilot program will also support the exploration of postsecondary options and pathways for up to 12 high school students in Montbello.

Joy as Resistance was founded by Bre Donnelly, a school social worker in Denver Public Schools, to support the mental health and wellness needs of LGBTQ youth in Denver and Aurora. A $8,000 award will support suicide prevention training, wellness summer sessions and a mobile mental health clinic.

Logan Learning Lab addresses the barriers that prevent gifted students from underrepresented backgrounds from accessing educational experiences that maximize their full potential. The Lab works with educators across Denver Public Schools to identify and engage these students and their families, and develop teachers’ student-centered instructional practices to transform learning. A $10,000 award will support the Lab’s work this fall.

Montezuma School to Farm Project supports Southwest Colorado students with educational programs on nutrition, gardening, and environmental stewardship. A $3,500 award will support the project in adapting seven school-based gardens and launching three hybrid summertime programs with a strong focus on the environment, math, science, and art.

Northfield High School is a member of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone whose enrollment system was intentionally constructed to provide quality seats across socioeconomically neighborhoods and help close the achievement gap within Denver Public Schools. A $3,500 award will support Northfield’s efforts to pilot and launch the Flyer Connect app, which provides families with translated communications, academic tools, and social resources during the 2020-21 school year.

PlatteForum is an arts-based nonprofit that matches youth with professional artists in intensive and long-term projects where they explore relevant social issues, safely take creative risks, and develop academic, professional, leadership, and personal skills. A $5,000 award will support the development of creative arts programming that integrates social and emotional support with opportunities to discover and address social justice and restorative processes important to teens.

Rachael Ribota Vaughn Elementary is launching a food pantry and library for students and families of this school in Aurora, which serves a student population of whom 94% qualify for free and reduced lunch. A $4,000 award will be used to purchase books, learning materials and food pantry supplies.

R.O.G.U.E. is a youth-led multi-media effort that aims to strengthen relationships among young people and build bridges with older generations by discussing impactful topics that span multiple communities. A $5,000 award will support the team to develop content for YouTube, a newsletter, and a podcast focused on supporting students to navigate the post-COVID-19 education landscape and the transition from high school to college.

RISE Colorado is an advocacy organization in Aurora, Colorado that works with low-income families, families of color, and refugee and immigrant communities to put those most impacted by the opportunity gap at the forefront of the movement for educational equity. Using a $20,000 award from the Fund, RISE will launch two programs: 1) the Next Generation Virtual Summer Youth Program with curriculum focused on leadership development, academic support, and social connection and 2) the Family-Led Virtual Community Forum, which provides parents and guardians a space to share their hopes, concerns, and ideas for school re-entry.

San Luis Valley Innovation Hub is a collaboration between the Boys and Girls Club of the San Luis Valley, ActionLab360, Alamosa School District, neighboring districts, and community partners. A $15,000 award will support the collaborative to launch a new model of online learning that is easily customizable and will be available to more than 1,000 students in the valley.

Science Fair Fun is a nonprofit that partners with schools to improve access to high-quality, early learning STEM opportunities. Science Fair Fun targets its programs to public schools with 50% or greater student participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) – a population that has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. A $3,500 award will support the beta test of an innovative STEM 3- Project Kit program with remote learning options.

Southwest Colorado District Collaborative is a collaborative between five school districts, higher education institutions, and industry leaders formed to address areas of common need for students in southwest Colorado. A $10,000 award will help participating districts will develop student-informed solutions and leverage and share resources, including enhanced distance learning capabilities and career-readiness programming.

Summit County Program Provider Collaborative is a partnership of more than 65 organizations in Summit County providing a community-centered approach to wrap-around care by leveraging resources through cross-sector partnerships. A $10,000 award will help the collaborative achieve its central outcome — to ensure students have equitable and consistent access to academic and social-emotional support during the 2020-21 school year.

Silverton Public Schools is a small, rural district in Southwest Colorado with a whole-child approach to teaching and learning. A $20,000 award will support the district to engage with students and families one-on-one to redesign and rethink the school schedule, and to develop and formalize structures to build relationships and provide student and family coaching through the fall. The effort will work in partnership with the local early childhood education center, and inform the approach of the district into the future.

Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning provides intercultural learning programs and services to Coloradans. In response to COVID-19, the Spring Institute plans to launch a new summer learning program at two apartment complexes in Denver and Aurora that are home to a diverse group of multicultural students. The organization plans to project virtual classes in outdoor spaces so that residents can build community while remaining physically distanced. A $5,000 award will support the launch and implementation of this program.

Vilas School District is a small rural district in Southeast Colorado with a focus on project-based learning and developing students’ technological skills. Vilas piloted a homeschool options program in the 2019-20 school year, and this $6,500 award will support planning, communications, and partner building so that the district can accommodate anticipated growth of the program in the 2020-21 school year.

The Youth Scan Project is a statewide initiative created by YouthRoots designed to elevate youth voices on COVID-19 related impacts on education and student experiences. A $4,350 award will support students to design a youth-facing community needs assessment, gather student perspectives, and analyze information during a 10-week program. YouthRoots will then ensure insights from the effort inform decision-makers in philanthropy, education, and government.

Wyatt Academy is a K-5 community-centered elementary school serving children and families in the Cole and Whittier neighborhoods of Denver. A $8,000 award will support Wyatt to deeply engage families during the summer months to develop a hybrid learning plan with robust online content, and continue to support families with its on-site resource center.

Young Aspiring Americans for Social & Political Activism is rooted in giving Black youth and youth of color the civic tools and knowledge to understand and resist racism while they navigate their school experience and advocate for systemic change. A $20,000 award will support a summertime pilot of a five-week Social Sciences and Policy Institute that will lead students in small cohorts through experiential learning projects.

RESCHOOL Learning Dollars

A portion of the COVID-19 Education Innovation Fund was used to create a learning dollars fund, managed by RESCHOOL. Families disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and facing economic hardship were invited to apply for funding to pay for resources and experiences their children needed this summer in order to stay engaged in fun, interesting, and important learning.

Pie charts showing funded applicants and all applicants by raceRESCHOOL received more than 400 applications in a two-week span and has had to temporarily stop accepting applications, because demand exceeded the supply of funding on hand. They are actively fundraising and hope to offer more learning dollars to support families this Summer and into the Fall.

As of June 30, RESCHOOL has distributed $24,000 in learning dollars for 160 youth from 71 families statewide. Together, the partners leveraged our collective networks to ensure that word about the learning dollars fund was received by families from trusted partners across the state and that funding was distributed across geographic regions. This map shows where applications came from and where learning dollars were distributed. We will provide further information later this summer about people’s experiences with this fund and how families used their learning dollars.

The majority of applications (78%) were from families with multiple children and with household incomes below $50,000.

Overview of Learning Dollars Applicants and Distribution of Funds (as of June 30, 2020):

Given our inability to fund all those who applied, we prioritized available funding for those with household incomes below $35,000 and from communities disproportionally affected by COVID-19.

  • 73% of applications received were in English, 28% were in Spanish.
  • 56% indicated English as their primary language 35% indicated Spanish as their primary language
  • 3% indicated Other (Arabic, Amharic, Burmese, Somali, Oromo, Vietnamese)

To download a shareable PDF of this award announcement, click here.