The Rise School of Denver is an inclusive, therapeutic preschool whose mission is to provide the highest quality early childhood education to typically-developing children and children with developmental delays. The school serves 45-50 students per year, half of whom have disabilities. These children learn and grow together in an environment that is designed to give each child a strong foundation for a successful transition to kindergarten and a lifelong love of learning.
In 2001, a group of Denver parents were researching opportunities for their children diagnosed with Down syndrome. After visiting schools locally and nationally, they determined that the model used by The Rise Schools inTexas and Alabama would provide the best opportunity for their children to learn and reach important developmental milestones. After eighteen months of hard work, Friends of Children with Down Syndrome of Colorado, dba The Rise School of Denver, was incorporated in January, 2003 as a 501(c)(3). In April of 2003, the school opened with one class of eight children and an annual operating budget under $100,000. Due to the demand and need of families and dchildren in the Denver metro area, the Board of Directors developed a carefully staged growth plan to ensure program quality and financial stability. During the 2015-2016 school year, the school served 47 students with an operating budget of $750,000.
This is our daughter Sarah's fourth year at the Rise School. Sarah has Down syndrome (DS). Being a part of Rise has meant that we are no longer alone on this journey.
We had a rough start with Sarah, with a prenatal diagnosis at 20 weeks gestation, followed by the knowledge that upon birth she would need extensive bowel surgery followed by open heart surgery. She remained in the NICU for three months and, after a total of four surgeries, came home very weak. Enduring a prolonged hospital stay only compounded the developmental delays typically seen in DS. We wondered whether Sarah would ever be o.k. and looked for resources to enhance the early intervention that she was receiving in the home through the county. We read that aggressive therapy early-on was the best thing a parent could do for a child with DS. Fortunately, a neighbor with Trisomy 9, a very rare genetic disorder, had already graduated from The Rise School and we were told of the amazing strides their daughter made while there. We see that little girl today and are amazed at how well she has transitioned to the public school, how well and thoughtfully she speaks, and how she is thriving due to the aggressive support that she received at a young age.
To be honest, when we were told what it would cost us to send our daughter to Rise, we both thought, "no way!" However, one tour of the school, and we were committed to Sarah's enrollment, no matter the cost. We ultimately decided that Andrea would return to work, after seven years of staying at home, because we felt Sarah needed the school more than she needed to be at home. We saw it as a springboard to give her the best opportunity to succeed in school, and ultimately in the world with the ultimate goal for her to live an independent life.
It has been a huge relief to know that our family is surrounded and supported by a village of teachers, therapists, and parents who know and understand Sarah's unique needs. They have held our hands through five more surgeries and have cheered Sarah on during the recovery processes. I once asked her Lead Teacher what percentage of therapy Sarah was receiving during the day. She replied that 100 percent of the day is focused on obtaining the goals that the team has set out for Sarah. Wow! This happens because the staff are purposeful in everything that they do, from an everyday task of eating with utensils, to the challenging task of stringing beads. Sarah is thriving in the stimulating environment of Rise, receiving her physical, occupational, speech, and music therapy needs. Her language has taken off with three to four word phrases, reading phrases, conquering over 50 site words, and manipulating language in new ways every day. She can independently walk up and down stairs, climb like a monkey, and is beginning to ride her tricycle without supportive devices! Ultimately, we know that the difference is the great love that Sarah's teachers have for her. Her current teacher, Ms. Jacqui even offered to be her respite provider. The teachers at the school routinely help families to cover childcare needs, give respite care, or just hold a baby for a bit of a break. It's family there!
With roughly 47 students and tuition covering only 60% of expenses, it is essential for the school to continually fundraise. Beyond our time there, our hope is that this school will remain open for future generations of children with DS and other disabilities. The current plan is to buy our school site and land to renovate the building and build the wonderful, creative playgrounds that these kiddos deserve. The school will also increase the number of classrooms to serve more of the over 120 students currently on the waiting list. It is for this reason, that we ask you to donate money to the Rise School of Denver on Colorado Gives Day. All donations help, regardless of the amount, so please don't feel obligated to give a large sum of money. Even a $10 donation can make a difference! Please consider this request and pass it along to others who want to join and give to this amazing school.
The Hritz Family