Cottonwood Institute

A nonprofit organization

$32,008 raised by 48 donors

100% complete

$30,000 Goal

Our Why:

According to a recent study of youth across five countries, over 84% of young people reported that they were worried about our changing climate. Nearly half of students surveyed expressed feeling “anxious, helpless, and powerless” in the face of global environmental issues. Young people are concerned about the future of our planet, but don’t always have the support they need to feel empowered as changemakers – this is where Cottonwood Institute (CI) steps in.

How We Do It:

CI believes that we can’t expect students to care about the environment or to protect it until they first have an opportunity to explore nature and develop a powerful connection to it. Since 2004, CI has engaged students with programs that support confidence-building outdoor skill development, immersive environmental education, and student-directed civic action.


According to Kira Gilliland, an alum of our CAP Class and Changemaker Program, “Overall, I feel that this class changed my life forever, and I found a place where I could be myself. I learned so much about the outdoors, but also about myself. I loved it so much that I convinced my friends and my brother to take this class. I would highly recommend this class to any person on this planet, no matter their age.”


Cottonwood Institute’s (CI) vision is to awaken the changemaker within every student.

CI is on a mission to connect middle and high school students to nature and inspire them to protect it.

Background Statement

Cottonwood Institute (CI) was founded by Ford Church, M.A. in September 2004. The idea for CI was a culminating project of his master's thesis from Prescott College in 2003 and came from his passion for the outdoors, his commitment to the environment, his love for inspiring the youth of America, and from his commitment to giving back to the community. Ford started piloting CI's CAP Program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO in 2003 and the incorporated CI 1 year later. CI programs now serve over 400 students per year and are now offered along the Colorado Front Range, including Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette, Denver, and Aurora, CO.

Organization Data


Organization name

Cottonwood Institute

other names


Year Established


Tax id (EIN)




Organization Size

Medium Organization


1536 Wynkoop Street, Suite 106
Denver, CO 80202


PO Box 7067
Denver, CO 80207

Service areas

Denver County, CO, US



Main Number

303-447-1076 700

Main Number

303-447-1076 701

Main Number

303-447-1076 702

Main Number

303-447-1076 703

Main Number

303-447-1076 704

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