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Colorado Christian University Case Study

Denver Street School January 2014


Joanna, at her graduation from Denver Street School.

Author: Krista Kafer Contributors: Bush White and Kathleen Chandler Editor: Gabe Knipp Graphic Designer: Bethany Bender

DENVER STREET SCHOOLS BOARD OF DIRECTORS Jim Cochran Board Chairman Real Estate Development Geoff Solich Ponderosa Energy Tom Ladtkow Branch owner Remax Horizons Group Sara Bradbury Educator & Co-Owner of Bradbury Companies Steve Foley Retired, Denver Bronco Land Developer & Oil and Gas Scott Ansel VP, UBS Investments Max Bryant VP, First Bank Ron Morrow VP, Grease Monkey

DENVER STREET SCHOOL: Hope and A Second Chance for Denver’s Lost Youth

In 1985 public school teacher Tom Tillapaugh felt called to create a high school for kids who struggled with homelessness, academic failure, poverty, criminal behavior, drug abuse, pregnancy, and gang affiliation. Many of these teens had dropped out of school and had nowhere left to go. Tillapaugh knew these students needed to have an education, positive adult role models, and the hopeful message of the gospel to escape their page 2

circumstances and create a better life. What began with a handful of students in a house off of East Colfax in the Capitol Hill neighborhood is now two high school campuses serving 100 students. The Denver Street School is a nondenominational Christian school where students hear the transformational message of Jesus Christ and see the Christian message lived out by the faculty. The school is fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Tuition is free to students and supported entirely by donations. Students, many of whom have dropped out of public schools, hear about the Denver Street School through word of mouth, parole officers, social service agencies, churches, and the public school system. Most of the students are from lowincome families, are Hispanic or African American, and come from urban neighborhoods. When they come to the Denver Street School, they find a small school where teachers and principals take a personal interest in helping them overcome barriers and succeed. Each campus has five to six teachers and a principal. Classes have one teacher per ten or fewer students. Every adult knows every student’s name and history. Students are placed on an Individualized Learning Plan that identifies the classes they need to graduate and the support they need to get there. The school offers a strong core curriculum, web design classes, an athletic program, and a Career Pathways program with job shadowing and internship opportunities. Denver Street School students are required to engage in community service in order to graduate. Additionally, each student is assigned an advocate from the faculty who works with the student from the first day of school until he or she graduates or leaves the Denver Street School. Advocates meet with students each day and help students attain additional school help or outside services such as housing, food, school supplies, drug and alcohol treatment, and day care. They also foster character building and spiritual development. Because of their dedication to helping students

succeed, Denver Street School teachers and staff members have seen over 200 students graduate from high school and go on to live productive lives contributing to their families and communities. Ninety-five percent of students who graduate go on to higher education, vocational school, apprenticeships, a job, or military service within two years of graduation. Jimmy, for example, had been at the Denver Street School (Lakewood campus) a couple of months when staff noticed that he was at school before staff arrived and lingered on in the afternoon and evenings. They discovered that Jimmy’s family had become homeless and he was sleeping in the window well of the church building next to the school. Jimmy was concerned that he could not get from his family’s homeless shelter to school on time. Denver Street School helped Jimmy find housing while he was in school. Similarly, the Denver Street School provided Gina the support she needed to attend school. The Denver Street School provided her in-school child care for her son during classes. Gina continued to attend school even through a second pregnancy. After graduating from the Denver Street School, Gina went on to attend college. She graduated and became a teacher. Gina has now completed a master’s degree in education and is contemplating applying to a doctoral program at Stanford. Amanda enrolled in the Denver Street School at the age of 16 after several years of drug abuse and incarceration in juvenile detention centers. At the school she was able to find her second home. Amanda believes that “without the love, support and encouragement from Denver Street School, I don’t know where I would be. They helped me find my God given potential.” She graduated with high marks and was accepted to Regis University. Amanda graduated summa cum laude with a degree in finance and communication. Today she is the director of development at the Denver Street School and is happily married. She remains dedicated to being all that God has created her to be and to helping other students achieve the same. The Denver Street School has become a national model of a small, individualized, faith-based school environment for at-risk teens. In 1996, Tillapaugh * Permission to use photos at

founded the National Association of Street Schools, now the StreetSchoolNetwork (SSN), to train others to start and operate similar schools in cities around the nation. The network has 40 member schools and holds an annual conference on the campus of Colorado Christian University. SSN has received the philanthropic support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other generous donors. ■

Denver Street School provides the support students need to attend school.


A student has a great relationship with his teacher, Adam Dorn. page 3


Administrative/Mailing Address

West Campus (Lakewood)

1585 Kingston St

PO Box 140069

1380 Ammons St

Aurora, CO 80010

Denver, CO 80214

Lakewood, CO 80214

(720) 935-2154

(303) 860-1702

(303) 847-7582

MISSION STATEMENT: The Denver Street School offers struggling students a second chance to earn a high school diploma through a fully accredited program in a small classroom setting. The Denver Street School believes that a quality education is the most effective approach to transforming many underprivileged members of our society into productive citizens, helping them achieve self-sufficiency through education. DSS serves the population of students in Metro Denver that have struggled with, droppedout, or have been expelled from the public school system.

FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATION 2012-2013 cash and in-kind donations $894,185 2012-2013 expenses $964,440 84.2% of funding supports program services 9.4% of funding supports fund raising 6.4% of funding supportsadministration Denver Street School receives no government funding (The DSS fiscal year is from July 1 through June 30)

Tom Tillapaugh Founder, Executive Director and CEO

8787 W. Alameda Ave. Lakewood, CO 80226

CCU Case Study - Denver Street Schools