Colorado Gives Day
UPDATE: The Rise School raised $450,000 during the 2016 Colorado Gives Day! Read more here.
The Rise School has some exciting news! We are in the process of purchasing and renovating our current building on Eastman Avenue, and as such, our goal for Colorado Gives Day is to raise $75,000 to create a new entryway for the building which will become our permanent home. Check it out here!
This is the first step in our plans to create a state of the art facility, one that will allow us to grow our space to serve more families. With Colorado Gives Day upon us, you can help us realize this dream by contributing to the cost of the first piece - a warm entry to welcome families and visitors to this very special place.
All donations qualify for the Colorado Child Care Tax Credit, which allows you to claim 50% of your total donation. More info here.
About The Rise School
The Rise School of Denver provides the highest quality early childhood education for all children, including children with developmental disabilities. Learn more here, or watch the videos below:
Read how The Rise School impacts the children who attend and their families:
- The Baker Family
- The Bolin Family
- The Bennett Family
- The Bober Family
- The Buniger Family
- The Carlson Family
- The Clark Family
- The DeBolt Family
- The Dichter Family
- The Faulkner Family
- The Grazier Family
- The Hritz Family
- The Jones Family
- The Klassen Family
- The Masnick Family
- The Owens Family
- The Rinner Family
- The Roberts Family
- The Tejada Family
- Kristin's Story
- Linda's Story
- Miss Jacqui's Story
- Miss Megan's Story
The Baker Family
William surprised us all when he was born at 26 weeks at approximately two pounds. Throughout our days in the hospital and for many days after we talked to a constant stream of doctors, nurses and social workers who told what to expect. Our information came in the form of a lot of scary statistics and a lot more unknowns. We spent 126 days in the NICU and though we had a difficult course, even back then William was an extremely resilient and positive baby earning the nickname “Iron Will”.
We are so happy to say that four years later William is an incredibly smart, funny, happy, wonderful boy who has exceeded every expectation we were given those first few weeks. Not to say that we haven't had some challenges as well. Shortly after we left the NICU William was diagnosed with congenital heart disease and underwent open heart surgery at nine months. At two and a half William was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy which primarily affects his legs, requiring him to use orthotics to walk and making gross motor tasks a challenge.
When we set out to find a preschool, we felt completely overwhelmed. Even though William exhibits a significant gross motor delay, we were shocked to find out that he would not be eligible to receive therapy in a public school program because the state of Colorado does not consider a physical impairment to interfere with a child’s education. This left us with a scary feeling that so many of us face throughout our lives, of where do we fit in? According to this crazy measure, we do not fully check either box. When we found Rise, we felt like it was an answer to our prayers. William receives his much-needed physical therapy along with occupational, speech and even music therapy weekly. The teachers at Rise go above and beyond to make sure that William’s daily goals are being met and their attention to detail and communication is unparalleled. We feel confident every day we drop William off that he is receiving the best care he possibly can. Rise’s inclusive model has benefited our entire family. We are looking forward to our eight-month old daughter Grace attending in the Fall right along with her brother. The families, teachers, and staff at Rise have provided Matt and me with a tremendous amount of support and we are forever grateful to be a part of this wonderful community.
The Bolin Family
We chose the Rise school because we wanted Brady to attend a school that would fit Brady’s needs. At the time, we weren’t even sure what Brady's needs would be, after he was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome at age 2 ½.
We love that Rise is an inclusive school for typically developing children and children with special needs. It was also very convenient that Rise has music therapy, OT, Speech and PT at the school and that there is a different therapy for the children every single day.
The staff at Rise is fantastic! From the teachers, to the therapists, to the classroom helpers and office staff, we couldn’t be happier with the support that everyone provides on a daily basis to Brady.
He has formed relationships with everyone at the school over the past year and a half that have been invaluable. All of these things give us the peace of mind that Brady is in the right place to learn and grow in a warm and positive environment and we know that we are doing what’s best for Brady and our family!
The Bennett Family
Our daughter Kaitlin started at the Rise School in 2010 when she was four years old. She had global developmental delays and epilepsy. We had moved to Denver just a year earlier and were so thrilled when a spot became available for Kaitlin – the reputation of the school was very strong and we knew it was the right place for our sweet girl.
The warm welcome at Rise for Kaitlin was incredible. I remember shyly telling the teacher that Kaitlin, though she was four, wasn’t potty trained and didn’t feed herself – and the teacher smiled, and said, “no big deal, we’ll work on that!” I felt such relief that there was no judgement, no reservation – Kaitlin was embraced fully. She was met on her level and pushed to her potential. The unexpected benefit to being a Rise family was feeling like we, as a whole family, had been embraced too. We had been searching for support, for some sense of community in what can often be an isolating experience – parenting a child with special needs. At Rise, we found friends who were walking the same path and we gained so much from our relationships at the school.
In Kaitlin’s two years at Rise, she thrived. She had friends both with and without special needs to look up to, she had teachers who were completely invested in her growth – and above all, she learned many skills that were necessary for her transition to Kindergarten. We hated to see our time at the school end…so much so that I took a job in the office two days a week to do my part in supporting the mission of this great school. Believe me when I say that being around this inclusive and welcoming environment where all kids shine, I get much more than I could ever give.
From all the Bennetts, thank you Rise School!
The Bober Family
My son, Samuel, was born in 2010 with a very rare genetic syndrome known as Cri Du Chat, which is a deletion on chromosome #5. When Samuel was just four months of age, he was diagnosed with the syndrome. Currently, there are only seven children that have been diagnosed with Cri Du Chat in the state of Colorado, including Samuel. All of the children diagnosed with Cri Du Chat vary significantly in their symptoms and severity, which is all due to how large the deletion is on the chromosome. Due to the extreme severity of Samuel's deletion on chromosome #5, the physicians' prognosis was extremely grim, in which I was told that Samuel would never walk, never talk, never eat independently, and would be profoundly cognitively delayed in a "vegetative" state. Sadly, upon receiving this devastating news, I found myself suddenly becoming a single parent having to handle everything on my own completely. I had no idea where to turn to or what would be the best resources for Samuel. Then I found The Rise School of Denver.
Samuel was fortunate and blessed to enter The Rise School of Denver at the age of a year and half, and spent the next five years at the school. When Samuel first enrolled at the school, he was unable to sit up on his own, and had to use the support of a "boppy" pillow behind him. With the continued support and wonderful care from the teachers and therapists, Samuel took his first steps on his fifth birthday, at his birthday party, surrounded by all of his amazing friends from The Rise School! Additionally, Samuel's speech and cognitive abilities improved tremendously throughout the years of his attendance at the school.
I cannot begin to express how appreciative and thankful I am to The Rise School and the entire staff! The fact that the school maintains a 50:50 ratio in each classroom with typically developing children and developmentally delayed children is incredible! I am positive that Samuel benefited from this greatly, being able to model and learn from all of the children on a daily basis. Furthermore, having only eleven children in each classroom with three teachers is truly exceptional. All of the teachers have obtained their Graduate Degree or are enrolled in a graduate program while teaching. Finally, to have a full time Occupational, Physical, Music, and Speech Therapist that work daily in all of the classrooms with the children is absolutely astounding!
This fall, Samuel started Kindergarten at Littleton Public Schools and is doing amazingly well! His vocabulary and speech are excelling daily, as well as his mobility and cognitive abilities. The staff and children adore him and have made the transition from The Rise School to public school exceptionally smooth. Having the skills that Samuel acquired while attending The Rise School has made such a difference for Samuel's quality of life. Today, I am extremely proud to state that Samuel is a very happy and loving little boy, walking and talking, and by no means, is profoundly cognitively delayed. All of which is due in large part to The Rise School of Denver!
The Buniger Family
I was recently asked to describe a time when I received exemplary customer service. After a brief reflection, I came up with an answer. My son Noah was going to a daycare center which was not used to dealing with children with special needs. Every day I would pick him up and notice that more often than not, he was sitting in a corner playing by himself. I don't believe he was being neglected - because if you know Noah, he would often rather be left alone to play with a spinning toy than be bothered. But despite him enjoying this activity, the father in me wanted to make sure he was being treated the same as everyone else. I needed to know that he was being given the same opportunities as his classmates. After discussing my concerns with his teachers, Tamara and I decided that we needed to find a better place where he would get the most out of his school day every day.
We went into Rise having already heard good things and with our minds pretty much made up that we wanted to send him there. After our tour, Meghan, the Director, informed us that the school had about a year waiting list which Noah would be placed on. Since we were so disappointed that he couldn't start immediately, Meghan offered to send some of her staff over to the daycare that Noah was currently going to, to give his teachers some training and ideas on how to better handle Noah. You can understand our sense of elation upon hearing this because that type of "customer service" seems to be long gone in this day and age.
Rise has been a godsend for our family. Every day we send Noah to school knowing that he will be accepted, included, and loved. We know that everyone on the staff is truly invested in our child and helping him make as much progress everyday as they can. I have seen many of the small miracles they perform daily first hand and can honestly say they are nothing short of amazing. I always tell people that nobody will love your children the way you do, but I honestly think the staff at Rise comes very close. I know that I was placed on this earth to be Noah's father and nothing pleases me more than to know he is learning, progressing, and thriving at a school that truly is invested in his future. Please support Rise because nobody plans on needing this type of school, but I don't know what I would do if it weren't an option for our family.
The Carlson Family
My whole career has been in the early childhood sector. In addition to teaching in a preschool for several years, I have worked to gauge and improve program quality across the state. I have gained a lot of knowledge about what works, and I thought that I knew what there was to know about young children. Then I had a child of my own. That really throws you for a loop! All of the theory flies right out the window when you figure out that you really know nothing about being a mother or about this brand new baby. It was a trip.
My husband and I were lucky. Our baby boy was born healthy, I was given generous leave to stay home and bond with him, and my mother offered to watch him for the first year. I started to panic when that year was coming to a close, and we needed to figure out care for our son. I knew that we needed a quality learning environment – I looked for the right classroom ratios, beautiful environments, good curricula, excellent assessments. The professional woman in me was on a mission to find the best. But the mom side of me was more worried about finding somewhere that had teachers who would love my little guy, a place that put his well-being first.
During a meeting for work, I visited Rise. I had been aware of this school for years, but it wasn’t until my son was born that I really saw the program. It’s easy to check boxes of quality, but it is so different when you can actually imagine your own child thriving in a setting. That day I asked if we could get our little guy on the waiting list. We started at Rise the day after his first birthday, and we’ve never looked back. Our son is now three, and he is blossoming. He doesn’t see the differences between the children in his class – he just sees friends. He finds their faces in storybooks that we read before bedtime and shares anecdotes from the day (typically laughing from the depths of his stomach at something that a friend did). I didn’t know that such young children could show so much empathy or care so deeply for their friends. Our son is learning and growing; he’s becoming an amazing kid that we are so proud of. And through it all, we are learning too. Our experience at Rise has truly been a blessing.
The Clark Family
We have been a part of the Rise School since 2011. We have had 4 kids go through their program-- Our youngest is currently in the Kangaroo class. We have chosen Rise because it’s a perfect fit for all of our kids.
Our daughter Meredith was the reason we found Rise. She had a Cornelia de Lange Syndrome-related genetic disorder and epilepsy. She and her twin sister, Caroline, started at Rise and in a few years, our son William joined, as well. They have now all graduated and are in elementary school, but we felt so strongly that the Rise School prepared all of our kids for elementary school and beyond, that it was an easy decision for us to send our youngest son, Wesley, to Rise as well. He started in the Bears classroom last year and it’s immediately became his second home.
The Rise School has given all of our children the best foundation possible. We felt they were prepared for elementary school with excellent fine motor skills, pre-reading and writing skills and a basis for math. But in our opinion, most importantly, they gained an understanding that there are all different kinds of people in this world. Wesley will be just as prepared as the others were for school, but more importantly, for the larger world where no one is the same. We know that like his siblings, Wesley will learn to value all his friends and appreciate their differences.
The DeBolt Family
We are the proud parents of four children. We were blessed with three typically developing kids and our son Ryan has Down syndrome. It is difficult to put into words the gifts a child with special needs brings to a family. One of those very special gifts was The Rise School of Denver.
The Rise School is an incredible preschool program for children with special needs and their typically developing peers. When I describe The Rise School I tell people that it is a kind of Utopia. It captures children at such an early age that there is no judgement or preconceived ideas about how a person should look, speak or behave. They are all friends and lessons are learned together in the most loving atmosphere you can imagine. It honestly took my typically developing children many years to understand that their brother had special needs because most of their very best friends had special needs and they did not see it as anything all that different.
Beyond the social experiences that my children received at The Rise School, they were given an incredible academic experience as well. The school is focused on the success of each child. Teachers and therapist work together and their passion is inspiring. Each day is filled with activities geared toward making these kids ready for the world. Our son Ryan is thriving in his elementary school and I honestly believe that we owe so much of that to The Rise School. His older brother proudly describes him as “The most popular kid at school." He is reading and writing and spends much of his day in the classroom with his typically developing peers. The early intervention he received at The Rise School set him up to be so much more successful and we are eternally grateful.
I really feel like we were given a gift when we found the school and I hope it is around for years to come so that other families can glean from it what we have. It is for that reason that I ask that you donate money to The Rise School of Denver on Colorado Gives Day. Even a small donation can make such a large difference. The Rise School changed our lives. Please give and pass this along to others so that they can give to this incredible organization.
The Dichter Family
The Rise School of Denver has offered so much to our family. Our oldest daughter Kamryn started at Rise in the Kangaroo classroom in 2014 and is now in her third year. We originally chose Rise because of the focus on each individual child as well as the exposure she would have to peers who are different than her. Not long after starting at Rise we could see that Kamryn has a big heart for helping others and being at Rise has given her the opportunity to cultivate this compassion. We have seen Kamryn develop empathy for others that far exceeds what our expectations would be for a 4-year-old child. After Kamryn’s first year at Rise, it was an easy decision to place our younger daughter Maya at Rise as well. Maya has had an equally positive experience. She continually needs to be challenged and the teachers and administration have been very in tune to her needs and worked to make sure that she is reaching her potential. The staff, teachers, therapists and families make it a wonderful community that we feel lucky to be a part of every day.
The Faulkner Family
My daughter, Shaylee, is almost 4 years old and this is her third year attending the Rise School of Denver. There are many reasons why we chose the Rise School, but the biggest reason is the experience I had when I worked at Rise. I was the after-school care Lead Teacher for almost two years and subbed, as needed.
I was able to witness the higher level of care that Rise offers to each of its students. Rise's classrooms are inclusive and that means there are children in the same classroom that have development differences, but all are treated with the same care and respect. This creates an environment of acceptance, tolerance, and empathy for everyone.
Since I had worked at several other child care centers, I noticed the difference immediately. The teacher-to-student ratio is amazing, and the staff members are truly invested in the lives of the children. The programs and lesson planning are thoughtful and developmentally appropriate with differentiation for students, as needed. The professional developments for staff are meaningful and the community that rallies to support the school is warm, caring and welcoming.
I have so much confidence in the staff, the Director and Rise in general. Sending Shaylee to school means we have peace of mind for her current education and great hope for her future, socially, emotionally and academically. Shaylee is absorbing so much and loves to come to school every day. My husband and I are eternally grateful for the care and education she is receiving at Rise.
The Grazier Family
Cora has been part of inclusive preschool programs in Denver since she was 10 months old, but there is something different about the Rise. So different that my highly analytical husband and my more random intuitive self BOTH felt it the first time we visited. We joined the waitlist hoping a spot would open for her and each time we came back to visit as we waited, Cora would light up. When we joined the Rise family this fall, I think we all let out a collective exhale. Her first week, Rise teachers noted that she was always smiling and that her laugh was contagious. It was incredible for us to see that level of daily joy for her time at school. Cora has seizures, developmental delays and autism, and the therapies at Rise help her learn to be her best self. We are watching her begin to enjoy being part of a community, grow in her skills and relationships, and gain courage in trying new things. The expertise, patience and care that everyone at the Rise shows Cora and all the kids there is beautiful. The communication from her teachers and therapists is top notch. The Rise is one of the best things that has ever happened for our family.
The Hritz Family
This is our fourth year sending our daughter Sarah, who has Down syndrome (DS), to The Rise School of Denver. The school 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 that would be followed by open heart surgery. She remained in the NICU for three month and after a total of four surgeries she came home very weak. Enduring a prolonged hospital stay only compounded the developmental delays typically seen in DS. We wondered whether or not she 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 that 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 there, we both thought, “no way!” However, one tour of the school, and we were both very committed to sending her there, no matter the cost. We ultimately decided that I would return to work, after seven years of staying at home, because we felt she 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 great big 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 her unique needs. They have held our hands through five more surgeries and have cheered her on during the recovery processes. I once asked her Lead Teacher what percentage of therapy Sarah was receiving during the day and she replied that 100 percent of the day is focused on obtaining the goals that the team has set out for her. Wow! This is because they 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 sight words, and manipulating the 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! But ultimately, it is the great love that we know that her teachers have for her. Her current teacher, Ms. Jacqui even offered to be her respite provider. The teachers at the rise 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!
As with many nonprofit organizations, The Rise School of Denver has suffered economic hardships over the past few years. With roughly 45 students, it is essential for the school to fundraise continually. Beyond our time there, our hope is that this school would remain open for future generations of children with DS and other disabilities. The current plan is to buy our school site and it’s land and build a proper school with a wonderful, creative playground that these kiddos deserve. 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.
Earlier this year I remember being totally consumed with stress, anxiety, worry, and felt like I was failing my son, my job, and my marriage. When Miles' health started to spiral and I knew he wasn't getting the quality childcare we needed, it was nothing short of paralyzing. I spent months trying to hold it together but ultimately took a leave of work in early April. It was around the same time that Miles was accepted for the 2016 school year at Rise. It was such an answer to our prayers. With over 120 students on their wait list it really did feel like winning the lottery. Miles had so many changes from the time we were enrolled to starting in September and every time I met with them they were confident and had experience with what we were working on. It was such a relief. Fast forward to now and I often joke that Miles should live there. He is truly thriving at school and I know his needs are met and then some. Miles is known as the little man on campus and adored by all. When I ask him if he's ready for school he yells "YEAH" every time. I'm so grateful for rise and thrilled that they are going to expand to serve more families. This year they are purchasing the church building they reside in and need your help!! An anonymous donor is matching every $1 with $2!!! So please consider donating to Rise even a small donation will go far. $10=30 and $25=75.
The Klassen Family
Every year, Matt and I try to summarize our thoughts about what The Rise School has meant for our family. This year, especially given the political and cultural/racial climate, I think it's very simple: Our world is not black and white. In fact, that's what makes it beautiful. Each person has something unique to contribute to our society, no matter his/her ability, race, gender, or religion. The Rise School celebrates that very fact: that every child is unique. Every child is cherished for who they are, and as such, a foundation is created at a young age that differences are not intimidating. Everyone can just be a friend. We are so grateful for the foundation of kindness that The Rise School instilled in our children. Now that they are in an extremely diverse elementary school, we have witnessed the fruits of their desire to include everyone, and enjoy friends from every background you could imagine. What a gift to be able to give our children! Unfortunately, it seems like one has to be pretty intentional to find an environment like this. That's why I ask for your support on Colorado Gives Day -- so that children can experience this wonderful place for their preschool years and go out into the world, better citizens, for years to come! On behalf of my family, and the organization for which I am privileged to work, I thank you for your support!
The Masnick Family
We moved to Colorado a few months before Eliza was old enough to start at the Rise School. The difference we noted in her behavior once she started there was tremendous. She is so happy to be at school and learning new things with her teachers and friends. I really believe the integrated environment has helped her be a more patient and caring child. It is evident from her warm behavior toward her schoolmates that she notices no difference between her typical and special needs friends. The different therapies and unique attention that she receives at the RISE school have helped to make her a curious and active child who is well on track to begin school one day soon. I wish this school was big enough so that all of the kids I know in Denver could attend!
The Owens Family
Elijah is being a great ambassador for Rise! During a recent parent-teacher conference, I learned that he is excelling academically because he is reading and spelling at an advanced level. In fact, he serves as the class helper when his classmates have questions about spelling! I'm often asked how is he able to do this and I always say it is because of Rise. Exposing him to Zoophonics even when he had no language at all, I believe was the foundation for his current language awareness. He understands phonetic meaning and is able to sound out unfamiliar words based on that understanding. We would not be where we are without the tremendous educational standards at Rise. Many times we focus on the adaptive support kids with special needs receive while attending Rise but the stellar academic standards required of all lead teachers and the benefit of the Rise children receiving excellent instruction, is what really sets Rise apart from the rest. A true testament that regardless of a child's ability, the Rise School focuses on every child's potential!!
The Roberts Family
Your first child hits you with a wide range of emotions, excitement, fear, happiness. You run around trying to get everything ready for their arrival, creating the perfect nursery, purchasing the right toys and bottles and when both parents work, finding the perfect daycare. As a teacher I did tons of research on this subject, asking friends and doing research online I had finally found “the one” down the street from our home and they didn’t charge for summers. I quickly put our little one on the wait list, even though he was months away from being born.
A month before his due date our little bundle of joy decided to surprise us. He was not only early, but had an extra chromosome, he had Down Syndrome. We will spare you the thoughts and emotions that we went through those first few days, as with any surprise there were many. The one thing we knew in those first few days was how much we loved our new baby, Richard. When the dust settled I called our daycare to ask if he could still attend and make sure they could they meet his needs. The owner was more than excited to have him join their ranks, but let me know that one day they may not be able to meet his needs.
With that in mind I began to research preschools that could accommodate his needs. I looked into the public pre-schools (yikes! Not to mention, as a working family the hours didn’t work), and various daycares around town. I finally went to the SPED and ILC teachers at my school and asked for their advice. Without hesitation they both told me to seek out The Rise School of Denver. They told me that every child they have taught who went to Rise was far and away further along than those who did not attend. With such a recommendation I sought them out and put Richard on the wait list. He would begin when he was 2 in the Bears room.
Meanwhile, Richard was doing well at his daycare. His teachers were attentive in the baby room and he had therapists come in from DDRC to work with him at school. The day came when he needed to move up from the baby room though. He had made great strides and could sit up on his own, his bubbly personality and smile drew people to him and he was able to communicate through sign language. However, he was not able to walk yet, which would make his transition a little harder in a room where all the kids walked. I was confident, after our experience in the baby room, that the teachers would give him the time he needed and help him learn to play with others despite his challenges.
When he moved up to the new class I instantly had concerns when I picked him up everyday. He was always on his own, sitting in the shade of the playground, or playing in a corner of the room. He was unable to walk with the other kids and the teachers were on their own talking instead of interacting with the kids. Richard is one of those kids who is happy playing on his own, but it felt like he was an afterthought in the room. As an educator of special needs kids and a mother I went to the owner and cried as I told her my concerns. For the first time I felt the sting of my child’s needs not being met. To the owners credit she got a new teacher in the class who interacted with ALL the kids, including Richard, but it was just not enough for Richard’s needs and we were ready for his next transition.
The next fall we began at Rise, and wow what a difference it made! We could see the joy in Richard’s face immediately. He was always happy, always included. There were kids with other special needs in his class, and typical kids as well. All the kids interacted with each other. The teachers had tools to help Richard, such as shorts that helped him sit up without doing the splits, weighted blankets to help him sleep, weighted vests to help him center himself during activities. They always found a way to adapt a situation or activity to help him succeed at it. The therapists knew how to motivate him during their time together and the updates they sent home with Richard helped us find activities and devices to help him advance and succeed at home. Within the year he was interacting with peers well and was able to walk. The unconditional love the teachers gave him and his peers was amazing. We never saw them ignoring kids to meet their own selfish needs, they were amazing. And through our journey at Rise, in every classroom we have moved up to and every teacher that has touched him we have seen the same love, encouragement and improvement that every child should experience.
Next year Richard will be moving onto Kindergarten and we can only pray and hope that he will have the same amazing experience there that he has had here at Rise. He has improved in every way imaginable, socially, emotionally, physically. The dedication of the staff and therapists at this school is beyond anything we could have imagined from where we started. So, as you think about where to give on Colorado Gives Day, please think about donating to the Rise School. Give children like Richard, and all children, a chance to blossom and grow.
The Rinner Family
People love to talk about the innocence of children, the beautiful quality they have of not understanding or expecting the complicated problems of the world. This is true, of course, but it’s also true that this time is fleeting – and that this innocence presents us with a profound opportunity: we have the opportunity to create our children’s expectations of the world. Because of the Rise School, I am watching my children come to expect a world of inclusion, possibility, and hope.
Now, maybe more than ever, I am grateful for the chance for my boys to be a part of a community where inclusion is the guiding principle and difference is seen as strength.
Our boys, Jack and Charlie, are both typically developing, and we were drawn to the Rise School because of their superb teaching staff, their commitment to serving the whole child, and the diversity of abilities in the classroom. We have been blown away on all counts. Each child in their classroom is treated with joy, dignity, and respect, and their teachers work to build on their individual strengths and improve in the areas where they’re still developing. This personalized attention is helping our boys to thrive, both socially and educationally.
Jack and Charlie proudly come home with projects, stories, and a sense of community when we pick them up at the end of the day. What I think I’m most proud of, however, is how they talk about ALL of their friends. It’s not that they don’t notice differences but that those difference don’t define their friends, who are all partners in their classroom adventures together.
We all have big dreams for our children. Now, because of the Rise School, my dream for my children includes the hope that they will be able to be leaders in the work we have to build a truly inclusive world. Every day, I know, those seeds are planted.
The Tejada Family
We believe our greatest responsibility as parents is to teach our son empathy, to move through life side by side with others. The Rise School is a place where Diego learns to see similarities before differences, and the various types of development are just the beginning. Through inclusive education the children learn that their differences make them unique, yet their similarities are greater and make them friends.
Already at 2 years old, Diego is learning to be aware of how others feel. He jumps alongside children who are happy and approaches children who are crying to see if they're ok. As Diego grows through these important developmental years before Kindergarten, he is learning that his "peers" are "friends."
Twice a year when Diego's teachers sit down with us to create personalized goals, it is clear that the staff members are top notch. They have a superhuman ability to stay patient and positive – even when most parents would lose their cool. The teachers are highly qualified, and everything they do is intentional. Diego thrives on the routine and predictability in his day at Rise. He naps and eats better on days there, and he asks about his friends and teachers when he's away.
Spanish is our family's first language at home. Diego's teachers carry the Spanish language over to the classroom, learning words as Diego learns them. We recently observed the teachers leading Diego and his classmates to count in English then in Spanish. This is a big deal for our family. We live in a world that can feel scary and threatening at times to people who are "different." We are careful about where we speak Spanish in public, not knowing how it will be received. Rise is a safe haven where our family is accepted and our differences are embraced. We are so grateful to be a part of the Rise community!
Kristin was born in San Angelo, Texas, in 1985. Her family was stationed there, as her dad was in the military. Kristin has Down syndrome, and she was blessed to be born in San Angelo, as they had an awesome early intervention program. Very soon after she was born, we took her to their intervention program and they did physical therapy, in hopes that she would walk someday. They also did therapy for cognitive stimulation, (although her brother and sister did their own form of "cognitive stimulation" at home!) At the age of two, we moved to Colorado where her grandparents lived. The best grandparents in the world! They took care of Kristin, and helped her develop in many ways, as they did not treat her any different from all the other grandchildren. Having a big family was a constant form of physical and cognitive stimulation in its own right.
She was also lucky to be born in a time when the school district she lived in provided integration into regular classrooms. She attended preschool and Kindergarten, all with early intervention programs. She made it all the way to high school in these programs provided. Kristin attended several programs after she graduated high school and began the process of learning job skills through volunteer work.
Kristin is now 30 years old and holds a job as a Teachers' Helper at The Rise School, a preschool for children with disabilities. I believe she is an excellent example what early intervention can do for children with a disability, and what the future can hold for them, if given opportunities to be included from the very beginning.
A mentor once asked me to share with him, on a weekly basis, a miracle that I had performed since we had last met. In the beginning, it seemed a difficult task. I was searching for the BIG miracle, the one that made an immediate splash, the “star in the night leading us to the promised king” event. It took a great deal of inner work to realize that miracles are seldom accompanied by choirs of angels or blinding lights. Miracles happen as you open your heart and eyes to the wonders of life.
I’ve been blessed to be a part of two miracle-filled communities in my life: a church I served several years ago and my current position as Development Coordinator for the Rise School. I have heard stories of parents that were not congratulated on the birth of their child when those around them heard that the child had a disability. I have watched silently as tears rolled down the faces of mothers and fathers as they describe the first time they were told that their child would never walk....or talk….or be able to communicate with them. And I have witnessed these same children as love, support and therapy change their worlds so that they do start to crawl….and walk…and talk...and communicate through sign. I have sat in classrooms and seen the wonder of children playing with each other and learning side-by-side, not ignorant of the differences between them, but openly accepting of each unique personality. I have watched teachers hug and love and teach each child as if that child were their very own.
Miracles are indeed part of each of our days. They are easy to see and feel every moment at the Rise School of Denver as the love and wonder of life unfold. Alice Hocker wrote “Your greatness is not what you have, but in what you give.” To give to this miracle, is to be a part of the miracle of life itself.
— Linda Downey Turner, Rise School Director of Development
Miss Jacqui’s Story
Whenever I tell people what I do for a living, I am usually praised with kind compliments of how patient I must be, how amazing the work I’m doing is, and how the kids are so lucky to have a teacher like me. Although I would love to take those kind words to heart every time, I can sometimes brush them off because I am not the patient saint they are painting. What am I? I am lucky. I am lucky that I found an undeniable passion around which to build my career and life. Working at The Rise School of Denver has given me the opportunity to morph my passion, career, and life into one building; into one community. Because that’s what we are at Rise-- a community. It starts the second you walk through those doors and you can feel the tremendous amount of compassion, love and support for one another. Whether you are part of the staff, a parent, a relative, or a student. . .you are a part of our Rise Family and always will be.
Growing up, I never dreamed about being a teacher, nor did I get my undergrad degree in education. I discovered I wanted to help young minds grow after various life experiences. The catalyst was witnessing a couple of older children with disabilities whose love for learning had dwindled. I assumed this was because the content and approach wasn’t appropriate for all minds, and that turned into a need to know how to help change the system. I realized that the best way to understand was to go back to get my Master’s degree, and I knew that I wanted to start at the beginning of learning in preschool, where I could provide an enriching and individualized way of teaching from the very start of a child’s life.
What makes Rise so special? I believe it starts with its exceptional model. That kiddos, regardless of abilities, are learning together and from one another in the same classroom. It’s truly beautiful to see how all the children are so pure and naïve to differences, but they also have this advanced knowledge of compassion. They go running to their friends with hugs when they’re sad, they help them with answers they might not understand yet, and they love without boundaries. Everybody experiences hardship in one way or another, but when you come to Rise, you get to see children with disabilities work so hard on tasks that may seem easy to you and me. You see them doing this with their best buddy by their side, helping and cheering them on. Being a part of Rise, we are able to witness this true gift every day, which is the foundation of our community. . .and I am lucky to call The Rise School of Denver my family.
Miss Megan's Story
I am not a parent of a child who is typically developing, nor am I a parent of a child with special needs. In fact my husband and I don't have any kids at all, although at times he might say differently (every night I brag about "my kids" and all of the different things each of them accomplished that day, and even the struggles we might have faced). I'm a teacher of tiny humans and I've found my home at The Rise School of Denver.
When I think about what Rise means to me, I find it hard to put into words. In all honesty, I've started and stopped this paragraph too many times to count. This is my fifth year working in an inclusive early childhood setting, although only my second year at Rise. I joined the Rise community as a teaching assistant in the Ladybug room and have taken over as the lead this year. I've learned a lot over the last few years, from an educational standpoint, as I'm a few weeks away from graduating with my Masters in ECSE, but more importantly from my colleagues, whether past or present; each has helped to shape me as a person and a teacher.
More important than those listed above are the kids, my kids. They've taught me how to be a better friend, how to look at a situation differently, how to show compassion towards others, how to lend a helping hand, how to let loose and laugh, and how to work hard, even when things seem impossible. Rise has allowed these children to find a home, a safe place to be themselves, even when being themselves might mean being a little bit different. I am a proud mama bear, of all of the kiddos I've had the opportunity to work with over the years, but especially those at Rise.
Just recently the church in which we are housed voted to sell the property to Rise! With more than 120 families on our wait list, the need to expand is overwhelmingly present. The purchase would allow for a lot of important upgrades, including the addition of 4 classrooms. So, on this Colorado Gives Day I'm asking for donations, small or big, to help support the expansion of the Rise School of Denver.