November 30, 2023

Twice every school year, the DPS Foundation distributes their A to Z Fund. The initiative allows DPS educators to apply for what their students need that falls outside their classroom budget. Every school has the chance to be awarded up to $3,000 in order to support students across the district. Since 2006, the DPS Foundation has awarded more than 1,500 A to Z Fund classroom grants totaling nearly $3 million towards diverse enrichment projects for students. 

In September, I had the pleasure of serving as a first-time application reviewer for this initiative. As a college senior studying education at the University of Colorado—and as a new intern in the DPS Foundation—I felt honored to review educator’s submissions with other community members. Reading through the applications, I felt a distinct sense of pride in the DPS Foundation and our work centering student and teacher voices. Educator’s explained exactly where they needed money to target funding gaps. The applications were student focused and described what needs the money would be fulfilling—from culturally responsive texts to supplementary curriculum. There were projects that would never have crossed my mind; for example, getting 3D printers to increase STEM skills or podcast equipment to prepare students for relevant fields. There were experiences that I remember as highlights from my own K-12 education, like field trips to exhibits and debate tournaments.

To review the applications, I attended a virtual call with DPS parents, a DPS high school student, and a Denver resident, discussing the creative ways that educators planned to use A to Z funding to inspire their students. Anyone in the Denver community, including high school students, are eligible to join our review committee. This cycle, the DPS Foundation awarded $178,166 to 76 schools and departments, which will support nearly 16,414 DPS students. 

The DPS Foundation has implemented a new Theory of Change framework for our initiatives called CLASS: Community Leads and Students Succeed. The idea is that in order to address the inequities in DPS, we must adopt a robust and strategic plan that targets outcomes. For the A to Z Fund, each applicant had to describe the ways in which their grant request fit into one or more of the CLASS key outcome areas: (1) student academic growth, (2) life skills and social emotional learning skills, (3) family engagement and navigation, and (4) educator leadership development. Most applications for A to Z fell into the first two categories, while other DPS initiatives such as Educators Take Flight and afterschool programs lean into the third and fourth goals. This was my favorite part of the application because it emphasized the educator’s dedication to their students’ growth and their projects were an outlet for that passion.

Marta Rodenas and Delia Lozano at Escalante-Biggs Academy were awarded nearly $3,000 this cycle, money that they said would “ensure a safe and positive school culture by engaging our students in cultural opportunities in efforts of supporting student culture and putting students first.” Students of all ages benefited from the funds, starting at Pre-K. 

The A to Z Fund gives educators freedom to pursue experiences for their students that would otherwise be out of reach. At the DPS New Educators Resource Fair in August, our team ran a booth highlighting the A to Z Fund. I watched as eyes lit up with ideas when I told them they had the chance to access these funds twice a year. They told me that their classrooms were missing key materials, and experiences they wanted to bring into the district were not always possible within their budget. Jodie Carrigan and Margaret Tuta at Doull Elementary School are using the last cycle’s funding to “provide students with the unforgettable experience of spending a night at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, helping to spark their interest in the sciences.” This A to Z cycle is making some of those educators and students dreams come true. 

Don’t miss the next A to Z Fund cycle which is now open and applications are due on January 15th, 2024.

Maia Parkin
Communications Intern