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Lifelong Learning

Innovation and Opportunities are The Foundation's Top Priorities
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For more info on
Lifelong Learning, contact:  

Brian Weber

Lifelong Learning

In 2020, a year like few others, The Foundation worked with Central Park area schools to adjust to the severe limits from the world crisis brought on by COVID.

At the start of the year, we were developing student teams to devise ways to combat climate change. We were helping schools overcome racial biases and misinformed practices to gain more equity and understanding for all students. We initiated plans for more outreach and support to area nonprofits to advance their work.


When the pandemic and its restrictions took hold, we switched gears. We had to address new needs such as helping students stay on task with remote instruction and not lose learning ground. We gave financial assistance to students and their families whose incomes ceased. We found ways to conduct classes outdoors to avoid risks of spreading the new health threat.

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We also organized a learning pod in the fall for low-income elementary students. From 10 to 15 students came to a large event room of Central Park’s MCA to attend their remote school classes that typically ended by midday. They received free breakfast and lunch and snacks. They were then able to spend the rest of the day studying and playing educational games with tutors on site. Without this support most of the students would have been at home unsupervised and learning little.


Like most organizations, we were relieved to help while at the same time fighting the sense of despair that permeated every aspect of society.

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We marshaled funds from our School Grant Program (SGP) to address new needs. The SGP makes annual awards of up to $10,000 per school. The Foundation also offers technical support to schools to develop project ideas and proposals. In typical years the money is intended to encourage new ideas to improve instruction and leadership, increase academic achievement and involve parent’s more in their children’s education. During COVID schools kept their eye on student achievement but employed new ways to get it.

Our relatively modest grants allowed schools to initiate activities that they otherwise would not have been able to afford. In 2020 we awarded $100,000 from the SGP for projects that included:


  • Rocky Mountain Prep-Fletcher bought $100 grocery gift cards for its low-income families slammed by job loss.

  • Half a dozen schools initiated new tutoring programs remotely and in-person during the school year and the summer to try to help students keep pace with reading and math lessons.

  • Denver Discovery Middle School launched student affinity clubs that promoted and celebrated student diversity -- Shades of Black Girl Magic, Gentlemen of Distinction, Latinos Unidos and Genders & Sexuality Alliance. 

  • Continued buildout of operations of Denver Green School-Northfield’s aquaponics system, indoor and outdoor gardens.

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for Denver Language School staff and leadership team.

  • Northfield High School for after-school prep classes for the PSAT and SAT college entrance exams.

  • Odyssey School continued its Culturally Responsive Expeditions Towards Greater Equity.

  • Bill Roberts K-8 and Isabella Bird Community School hired half-time mental health counselors to work, in part, with staffs and students suffering ill effects from the pandemic.




  • ​We used $20,000 in SGP money to buy two, large event-type tents for two Park Hill schools to conduct classes safely outdoors. We partnered on the project with McAuliffe International Middle School which held classes under four large tents on its athletic fields.

  • We contributed $25,000 to match a $25,000 grant by the Anschutz Foundation to pay for mental health counselors at two area schools.

Rocky Mountain Prep

Schools in FSUC’s School Grant Program


  • Ashley

  • Willow

  • Inspire

  • Izzy Bird

  • Rocky Mountain Prep-Fletcher

  • Swigert

  • Westerly Creek



  • Denver Discovery

  • Denver Green School-Northfield

  • McAuliffe International



  • Bill Roberts

  • Odyssey



  • Northfield

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In addition, we continued our work with the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone. Brian Weber, The Foundation’s vice president for education and development initiatives, was the chairman of the board in 2020 and a founding board member of the NDIZ in 2018. The Foundation is supporting the zone through its expertise in nonprofit management, crafting fundraising strategy and implementing it through research and other development activities. See more on NDIZ below:


Northeast Denver Innovation
Schools and Zone

The Foundation is a founder and leader of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ). The zone consists of six innovation schools that are district schools with waivers from local and state policies and collective bargaining agreements to better serve students. The schools operate much like charter schools with autonomy to control their budgets, staffing, programming and other operations.


There are six innovation schools in the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone. It is run by a nonprofit with a board of directors that oversees operations and policies. It helps save money and shares resources among its members by capitalizing on the zone’s “economy of scale,” pooling resources in areas like professional development and purchasing. NDIZ schools customize curriculums and share best practices and talent.


Brian Weber, The Foundation’s vice president for education and development initiatives, is a founding board member of NDIZ in 2018. The Foundation supports the zone through its expertise in nonprofit management, fundraising and other expertise.


The NDIZ includes six schools that serve 5,000 students:

  • Montclair School of Academics & Enrichment

  • Willow Elementary

  • Swigert International (elementary) School*

  • McAuliffe International (middle) School*

  • McAuliffe Manual Middle School*

  • Northfield High School*

(*Schools using the International Baccalaureate program)




International Baccalaureate is a challenging interdisciplinary curriculum for K-12 that stresses critical and independent thinking through projects to prepare students for college and to gain a global perspective. It is offered at four northeast schools.

IB focuses on six themes: Who we are, Where we are in place and time, How we express ourselves, How the world works, How we organize ourselves and Sharing the planet.

Area IB schools, which enroll more than 3,800 students: Swigert International (Stapleton elementary); McAuliffe International (Park Hill middle school); McAuliffe Manual Middle School (Whittier neighborhood); and Northfield High School (Stapleton). These schools are also innovation schools in the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone.


It presents the opportunity for significant impact with its size of 5,000 students (over five percent of total DPS enrollment), its socio-economic diversity and progressive approaches.

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Since 2016, FSUC has been the largest philanthropic partner of the IB For All program at Northfield High School. FSUC’s generosity in supporting lifelong learning, social equity, and a brighter future for people of all backgrounds across Northeast and Far Northeast Denver has had an immense impact on the families of Northfield High School and, by extension, the broader community. Below are some testimonials of the impact on specific students, as well as some big picture data demonstrating how FSUC’s support has enabled equitable growth of IB For All at NHS.

Sophomore at Villanova (FRL student who earned a Full Academic Scholarship):
“Well, being an IB student was a big part of me earning my scholarship. And even though what I’m learning at college is new material (communications), because of IB [at NHS] I know how to learn new things. It taught me how to ask for help, how to think so that I can retain information, and how to struggle through new concepts.”


Sophomore at CU Boulder:
“I am currently taking 17 credit hours so it is a tough course load however, I feel very well prepared. I have a good set of note taking skills. I also think I have a good sense of time management thanks to IB and NHS!”


Pre-Med Student at CU Boulder:

“I got 29 credit hours in total, because the max that you can get from Boulder for IB is 24 credits and I got 5 credit hours for AP Human Geography. Since you do about 30 credit hours per year, I’m basically a year ahead and will graduate a year early.”

But what is IB For All?


An explanation from Peter Wright, Northfield High School’s IB director:

(Peter is also a Diploma Program graduate from George Washington High School in Denver Public Schools)


We believe in IB curriculum, so all of our courses at the 9/10 grade level are aligned to expectations at 11/12 grade level (Diploma Program grades), so that every student, regardless of where they come to us in ninth grade, has an opportunity to find success in IB during 11th and 12th grade.


As for the logistics, 11th and 12th graders all take IB classes, but their involvement is on a spectrum. At a bare minimum, they take at least four IB courses during 11th and 12th grade (IB Language and Literature, an IB math course, an IB social studies course and an IB science course). They take IB Language and Literature (because we believe communication and information literacy is fundamental to everything else in life) and one other class of their choice, preferably in an area that they feel is a strength.


At the highest level, a student takes the full IB Diploma, which involves six IB classes from each major area (Lang and Lit, Foreign Language, Social Studies, Experimental Sciences, Math, and the Arts) as well as the core – Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and CAS (Creativity, activity, service). We believe that every student benefits from IB, but that each student should find the right degree of involvement for them.


An IB For All school lessens the divide between the student body and says to every student “You belong and can succeed in IB and we require some involvement, the degree of challenge you take on is up to you.”

Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities Financial Support of Northfield High School’s IB program

When Northfield High School opened in 2015, The Foundation wanted to relieve some of the financial burden that comes with International Baccalaureate. Toward that end, we committed to pay the cost for lower-income students to annually register for IB courses and exam fees (most students take at least two tests per year), staff professional development on IB methods and other expenses such as science lab equipment. That can mean costs of from $300 to $900 per student.


In 2017 NHS’ first juniors initiated the IB Diploma Program. Through 2020 The Foundation has awarded the school more than $350,000.

A unique aspect of area school offerings is International Baccalaureate. IB is a challenging interdisciplinary curriculum for K-12 that stresses critical and independent thinking through projects to prepare students for college and to gain a global perspective on one’s life and the world.

IB By The Numbers


  • In IB Language and Literature, the course all of our juniors and seniors take, 80% of students have received a 4 or higher, the typical threshold for college credit.

  • Over 300 students (including Special Education students) have earned qualifying scores in at least one IB course, most commonly IB Language and Literature. This means hundreds of NHS graduates are heading to college with some college credit already earned, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and allowing for accelerated courses of study.

  • 40 students have earned their IB Diplomas in the first two graduating classes, an exceptionally high number for a new school. Of these 40 students, half (20) of them are students of color.

  • We doubled our IB Diploma rate between years one and two. In 2020, 58% of IB Diploma candidates actually earned their IB Diploma. This was up from 30% for the (inaugural) class of 2019.

  • Enrollment in the full IB Diploma program is growing rapidly at NHS. The incoming 11th grade class has ~145 IB Diploma candidates, our largest class ever by a significant margin.

  • The incoming class is also our second most diverse ever (after the inaugural class), with 49% of these candidates being students of color. We will continue the essential work of ensuring the demographics of our IB Diploma program match the demographics of our student body as a whole.

  • NHS continues to expand our IB For All mission, with all rising juniors (excluding some center based students) now taking at least four IB courses during 11th and 12 grade (IB Language and Literature, an IB math course, an IB social studies course, and an IB science course)

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