Denver Kids is a jewel in Rotary’s community programs. Rotary Club 31 of Denver helped found Denver Kids after World War II to help at-risk youth in third through 12th grade graduate from high school. Club 31 Rotarians continue to serve on the organization’s Board of Directors and help fund operations that include twenty full-time counselors. Rotarians also recruit volunteer mentors who work one-on-one with students from third grade through high school, provide YRYLA and RYLA scholarships and offer numerous educational, career, and recreational activities.
Last year, Denver Kids served more than 900 students in 160 schools who participate for an average of seven years. The children are recommended by school counselors and may qualify for free reduced lunches and in addition to family, social, educational, and behavioral health challenges. This combination of strikes belies the 83 percent graduate rate Denver Kids achieve compared with the 65 percent rate of DPS students. These successful outcomes are a hallmark of Denver Kids.
In 2018, following a training for their counselors in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Denver Kids’ administrators sought a curriculum they could use with students and families. After a review of programs, they selected BrainWise, unaware that the curriculum had been developed by DMHR Rotarian Pat Gorman Barry. Neither did they know that BrainWise was being taught in Denver, Jefferson County, Weld County, and Aurora public schools, as well as in Rotary projects at Eagleton Elementary and CEC.
This connection opened an opportunity to seek a District Grant that would cover the training expenses. In addition, the project would make a wider range of Rotarians aware of mentoring opportunities with Denver Kids. Denver Mile High Rotary members Tom Cella and Diane Messamore stepped up to be co-champions of the District Grant with Club 31, Denver SouthEast and Castle Pines Rotary as partners. The grant was approved and Denver Kids’ counselors and administrators were trained in BrainWise in January, 2019.
The recent merger of Denver Kids and Denver Urban Scholars will provide additional opportunities for DPS students to learn SEL and the executive function skills needed to make positive life choices and decisions – with Rotarians and other volunteers serving as mentors.