The Bird Family


The Bird Family


“Do you think her limbs look short?”

Those were my first words after I was wheeled into my mother-baby suite at St. Joseph’s Hospital on April 17, 2016. I was expecting the nurse to tell me I was crazy, but she took a hard look at my brand-new baby girl and looked a little concerned.

“Maybe,” she said. “Let me see if I can get a pediatrician in here.”

People move a little slow in the maternity ward. So when the on-call pediatrician showed up only minutes later, my stomach dropped.

After a quick examination, the doctor told her she thought our baby had achondroplasia. I couldn’t even pronounce it, much less know what it was. But then she spelled out that it meant dwarfism. The next few months were a blur. We went to doctor’s appointments; we read articles; we joined dwarfism groups on Facebook. And then I went back to work. We got nanny after nanny to take care of our sweet Caroline, but I never felt that comfortable with her care, even with me working out of the home. And then my sister told me about The Rise School of Denver. She did a site visit for our family foundation, the Tracy Family Foundation, based out of Illinois.

Immediately, I called Rise and got on the school’s wait list. Caroline was almost one-year-old. The countdown started. One year later, Rise’s Executive Director Meghan Klassen told me Caroline could start in the Bears class at Rise in August 2018. I had tears in my eyes because I knew this school was the answer to our prayers. And it has been. 

Caroline has some challenges with her shorter stature and with her vocabulary, but Rise’s teachers, staff, and therapists are so involved in Caroline’s care and improving her life. I finally feel comfortable sending her off to school every day. I know she is being taken care of. I know she is getting stronger and smarter every day. My husband and I have made it a priority to donate to Rise School both privately and through our family foundation. We see how this school can change lives; we just wish it could help even more people.

Please consider joining me in donating to The Rise School on this Colorado Gives Day. Together, we can grow this school and help even more families in Denver.

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The Bohle Family


This is Evan’s first year at the Rise School of Denver. Evan was previously at another preschool where we struggled to have his complicated needs met. As we searched for a better option, one of our therapists mentioned Rise. Even with an amazing recommendation, we were still worried.

Evan has a rare neurological disorder, is unable to talk, and has gross, fine and sensory needs. Rise has a reputation for being inclusive and having many classroom supports, but we had been disappointed with our past experience and worried if this would be the same. Now looking back, we strongly believe sending Evan to Rise has been one of the best decisions we have ever made for him.

Within just a few short months at Rise, Evan has shown measurable growth in all areas of development. In fact, we have seen more growth from Evan in this small amount of time, than he has had in any other classroom environment.

We have been able to see firsthand what an inclusive supportive environment can do for our child, and it is more meaningful than words can express. We couldn’t be more grateful for all the hard work and passion that the people of Rise bring with them every day. Thank you Rise for making our son stronger.

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The Bolin Family

We chose Rise because we wanted Brady to learn and grow in an inclusive environment, but also have access to the additional therapies he needed and to be able to work with teachers who have a background in special education. The structure of the Rise school set the foundation for where and who Brady is today and what he is capable of doing. He is well on his way to becoming an independent child. We could not be happier. Also, the relationships that I have been able to form with other moms and families of children with special needs are priceless. Our journeys may all be different, but there is an understanding that is so incredible. We love all of the families, but to connect with those going through similar things makes this journey easier. Rise has a unique program-- For one, it's inclusive. And two, it's a full day. It's a smaller school, which I prefer, and the kids get to learn and grow for 4 years together. Rise becomes family and I'm not sure you find that anywhere else you look! ←Back to Support Rise


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.

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The Buzek Family

I’m not sure if we chose The Rise School or if The Rise School chose us—perhaps it’s a combination of the two. We received our daughter’s, Juniper’s, diagnosis when she was nine days old and immediately started searching for places where we, and especially our daughter, could be understood and appreciated not only by families who have children with special needs, but by everyone. As someone who researches in the area of early childhood special education and specializes in inclusion, finding a high-quality, inclusive preschool for my daughter became a life mission! But after being around the people of The Rise School of Denver, we knew that there was no other place where our daughter, and our family, could go that better embodies the spirit (and also the evidence-based practices) of inclusion for young children with and without special needs.

I’ve recently been given the honor of supporting The Rise School as a member of their board of directors. I’m thrilled to be involved with the school in this capacity. If someone were to ask why I chose to be this involved with The Rise School, I would say that they “just get it”—inclusion, early childhood education, early childhood special education, they “just get” all of it. And, as a mother and ECSE researcher, it would be my hope that every child with or without special needs could attend The Rise School or a school just like it. I truly believe this would make the world a different, better place. ←Back to Support Rise


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.

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The Cartwright Family

I am incredibly fortunate enough to have found my “home”. The place where I found myself living, thriving and part of a family. I found my “home” in 2012 when I was a recent college graduate, trying to forge my path in the world. Unsure of where I was going and who I wanted to be, I came across the Rise School. Working part time in the After Care program and occasionally as a substitute, I quickly discovered this was an amazing world where children of all differing abilities could come together and learn from one another. Highly qualified teachers and therapists work as a team, along with family members to help students reach milestones. Some of these milestones are achieved in spite of doctors’ future predictions at birth, such as walking, talking and even playing with peers. I had found my “home” and I would do everything in my power to help Rise and the incredible community that belongs here.

I received my graduate degree in order to become the lead teacher in the Ladybug Classroom and had the opportunity to see, firsthand, the power of inclusion on a daily basis. While, I understood the impact that inclusion had on our community, it wasn’t until I had a child of my own, that I truly valued this preschool as more than an educational experience. My husband and I had our son, JP, in the summer of 2016. I always saw myself as being a stay-at-home mother, but it was about six months after JP joined our family, that I realized I was missing a part of who I had become. I had spent the last four years of my life engrossed in the Rise world and Rise model and knew that I had to come back. Nervous, as any parent is, sending my child to preschool, the teachers knew just how to help my child grow and meet milestones, but ultimately to care and help all peers in his classroom. I love our car rides home, when he tells me all about his day and friends that he played with. My favorite moment thus far as a parent was a couple week ago when he told me, “Some friends need help and that is okay”.

I have found my “home”. The place where I am part of a family of staff and caregivers. The place where I live to see students, including my own, meet necessary milestones and learn to love and care for one another. The place where I thrive in the abundance of support for my child and tenacious community. Please remember to donate for Colorado Gives Day, this December. It is, because of schools like Rise that all children and families flourish in and out of the classroom environment.

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The Clark Family

We have been a part of the Rise School since 2011. We chose Rise because it was the 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 our three typically developing children all thrived at Rise. Wesley, our youngest, is currently in the Ladybugs class. It has become his second home. Here are some things we love about The Rise School:

We love that Wesley is excited to go to school each morning.

We love that each child gets to work with physical, occupational, speech and music therapists to make learning fun and meaningful.

We love that Wesley is in class with typically developing peers and peers with special needs.

We love that the ratio at the Rise School allows for a lot of individualized attention and planning that meets each child where they are.

We love that Wesley will be well prepared for kindergarten in all different aspects of his development.

We love that the Rise School is a loving and welcoming community!

The Rise School has given all of our children the best foundation possible. Wesley will be just as prepared as our older children were for elementary school, but more importantly, he will have gained an understanding that there are different kinds of people in this world. He will learn to value all his friends and appreciate their differences.

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The Clements Family

This is our daughter Maddie’s first year at the Rise School and the progress that she has made in such a short period of time is amazing. Maddie has Down Syndrome and a swallowing disorder that prevents many schools and daycares from accepting her. But at the Rise School she is fully accepted and included every single day.

The teachers and therapists at Rise have gone above and beyond to connect with the people that work with Maddie outside of school so that we can make sure that our goals for therapy at home are in sync with our goals for her therapy in school. The product of this coordination was obvious to me within her first few weeks at the Rise School when she began to bear enough weight on her feet to stand with support – something that we had been working on for months beforehand. I cried that day not only because I was so proud of hard she was working but also because it represented the work of so many people, all working together to push her to do her best and to support and encourage her.

The Rise School is such a special place. It’s given our family hope that there will be places for Maddie to find acceptance as she gets older. Places that will include her, that aren’t intimidated by what makes her different from typical children, and places that make everybody feel like they belong. ←Back to Support Rise

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The Corson Family


Words cannot express the love and gratitude we have for The Rise School. It's our first year at Rise and we really don't know what we would have done without this amazing school. Our Daughter, Norrie, is 4, and is unable to walk or talk. Her only diagnosis is global developmental delays. We spent the first two years of her life searching for answers and doing all the therapy we could. Unable to find an answer, we decided that we needed to get the best therapy for her, and find a school that accepted her and all the wonderful things she has to offer. At the age of three, we went through Child Find, and she was placed in the public school system, where we were hopeful that all her therapy and social needs would be met. Unfortunately, it was far from that. Norrie was set aside from the rest of the class. It was known that she was the special needs child in the class. One time, she was the only child that didn't get invited to a birthday party. My heart was not only breaking for her, but scared for her future. That was when we decided that we needed to find a place where she was accepted and would be included in all activities, and not left aside. Our in-home occupational therapist told us about The Rise School. Immediately, I called and set up a tour. After spending a couple hours there, we knew that was where Norrie needed to be. I remember being in awe with how all the kids played and did activities together, but at their own level. Everyone was included. It gave us this overwhelming sense of hope-- Something we hadn't felt in a long time. We put her on the waitlist that day. Our prayers were answered when we got the call that there was an open spot for her in the Kangaroo class.

These last few months have been life-changing, not only for Norrie, but for our whole family. We all see the astonishing amount of progress she's made. In the beginning of the year, I didn't think that Norrie would ever walk. Now, I'm seeing her take independent steps on her own. She has gone from using only a few signs at random, to making requests using her iPad. The most amazing part is seeing her interact with her peers. She's surrounded by teachers and children that truly love her. It warms my heart every time we walk into her classroom and the other children yell, "Yay, Norrie is here!” They don't see her as being different. They just see her as their friend. Also, I can't say enough about her amazing teachers. They have become like family to Norrie. I always tell people it's like she has a group of angels that teach, care for her, and celebrate her accomplishments every day. Last month she was out of school for a few days, and the minute she walked into the classroom, her teacher got down on her hands and knees to make eye contact with her and told her how much she missed her, and how happy she was to see her. I left, crying happy tears that day. We are so fortunate to have found The Rise School. It is such a wonderful place for our sweet Norrie and all children. We put Norrie's typically developing little sister on the waitlist for next year, and we ask you to support this incredible school, so that in their campaign to expand, they can serve more families like ours, and provide them with hope and love!

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The Dichter Family


We feel so lucky to be a part of the community at The Rise School of Denver. We placed our oldest daughter, Kamryn (age 5) at Rise when she was 2 ½ and then a year later put our younger daughter, Maya (age 3) at Rise. Our decision to have our daughters attend Rise was because of our desire to have them be part of a diverse community of learners. It was important to us that they were surrounded by others who are different from them. This has proved very powerful as our girls have learned to be empathetic to the needs of others and recognize that everyone has their own strengths.

While we knew that therapy (Speech, OT, PT, and Music) is a part of every child’s week at Rise, we didn’t know that Kamryn would eventually be diagnosed with a number of learning disabilities and these services would be critical to her growth. We feel so blessed that she was already in a school where her needs could be supported without having to move to a new school and that her classroom teachers had strategies and support in meeting her needs. Kamryn is now in Kindergarten and is thriving which we believe is a big testament to her experience at Rise.

Our younger daughter, Maya, has also had a wonderful experience at Rise. While she does not have the same learning challenges that Kamryn has, she has thrived in the Rise classrooms. Teachers are constantly working to meet her needs and keep her challenged. She has the opportunity to work with both typical peers and those with challenges and has learned how to recognize and be empathetic to the needs of those around her.

Rise is truly a special place. The entire staff works tirelessly to make sure every child regardless of need has individualized instruction to challenge them at their level. We have experienced this first hand with two children at Rise who have very different learning styles and needs. Staff members are compassionate about working with kids and providing a space for them to thrive. Rise is unique in its approach and provides a safe space for kids to grow and learn. We are so fortunate that our family has been able to be a part of this community.

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.

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The Grazier Family

The Rise is the kind of place that calls when Cora has to stay home sick to make sure that everything's okay. Where other kids in the classroom ask after their friends. Where parents reach out to each other to lend an ear or helping hand. The Rise is more than a school. It's a community. A place where everyone from the littlest person to the grown-ups cares about everyone else and wants them to be their very best. ←Back to Support Rise

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The Jones Family

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 DOUBLING all donations, so please consider donating to Rise- Even a small donation will go far! ←Back to Support Rise


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!

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The McCallin Family

I got involved with the Rise School of Denver about 3 years ago after my nephew, Breccan, was born with Down syndrome. At that time, I didn’t know much about Down syndrome, or special education at all. I joined the Board of Directors and have had the honor of working within this wonderful school ever since. The challenges that many of these children overcome on a daily basis is awe-inspiring. The teachers, therapists and administrators at the school are driven, passionate people whose positivity is contagious. Just hanging out in one of these classrooms, even for 5 minutes, becomes one of the highlights of my day. My two year old son, Tate, just started at Rise, and is in the Bears classroom. I can’t imagine a better place for him to begin his education. Our Board is currently working on a number of exciting projects for the school to make it even better. This is a fantastic place run by incredible people, and I am so happy that my family and I are a part of it. ←Back to Support Rise


The Mollenhauer Family


Our daughter, Zoe started at the Rise School last year, just a couple of weeks before turning two. Although we had been struggling to motivate her to crawl at home, within weeks of joining the school she started to crawl on all fours and soon she was chasing after her peers in the classroom, participating in play activities and being included in ways that I would not have thought possible. As a baby, she had been scared by other children her age, and even after that fear subsided she was reluctant to engage with them.

But at Rise she seemed to immediately be welcomed by the other children and the teachers found ways to encourage her socialization. She quickly made friends who were accepting of her unique challenges and this has been one of the most rewarding aspects of her time at Rise. Her friends have become her helpers and teachers, while the teachers and therapists have become caring friends who cheer her on and adapt the learning process to her individual needs and strengths.

The parents at Rise are also cheerleaders for all the children at the school, which creates an environment of support and love that is tied to the school’s mission and its students. Zoe has made significant progress in many areas of development over the past year and we could not be more grateful for the incredible Rise community that has helped her to achieve those goals.

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The Ommert Family

We found out we were having a baby with Down Syndrome when I was 13 weeks pregnant through genetic testing, and decided to go to the annual DS Buddy Walk in Denver a few weeks later to see other DS kids and get information at the event. It was there my Mom came across The Rise School's booth and insisted we go talk to them after the walk. We thank my Mom every single day for referring us that day.

Words simply cannot express the impact The Rise program has had on our son JD in just the first 2 years of his life!

At first, I was so nervous, not knowing what to expect and wondering if I was doing the right thing, but just a few days after starting his first day at Rise, I knew JD was in the right place no questions asked.

JD has excelled beyond belief with so many skills he never would have been able to get anywhere else! I mean it. This school is truly a hidden gem and I hope one day they can replicate their program throughout Denver metro area.

For now though, this organization is worthy of any and all financial support we can give them to help keep them being successful in doing what they do best!

I sincerely hope you will join me in making a donation this giving season! No amount is too small or too big :-) Thank you Rise School for all that you do to help our very special kids shine! ←Back to Support Rise


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. ←Back to Support Rise


The Teeter Family

After a normal pregnancy and straightforward delivery, we were blindsided when our brand new baby boy suffered a stroke and required life saving surgery. In those terrifying and challenging early days and weeks we had no idea what the future would hold for our son. As he continued to heal and grow, we learned about the Rise School of Denver through our multitude of therapists who all raved about this inclusive preschool program. The Rise School allows children with special needs an opportunity to participate and learn alongside their typically developing peers while also receiving support from therapists and highly qualified classroom teachers.

Our son's stroke resulted in him being diagnosed with ataxic cerebral palsy. His balance and coordination are affected and learning to walk has been a challenge but he is very verbal, social, happy, and determined! Rise School has given him an opportunity to practice new skills in a safe environment where he is always supported and encouraged by his teachers, therapists, and classmates. All children benefit from this learning environment where skills are modeled, repeated, and every activity has so much intention behind it. Plus they all see and learn empathy, patience, and kindness.

Weston has thrived in his years at Rise and we as parents have found such an amazing community. They have seen us through ups and downs and have celebrated every milestone with us. Their expertise and advice navigating the special needs world has been incredibly welcome and reassuring. There is nothing else like this unique school in the state of Colorado. Fundraising efforts support the school's continued operation and desperately needed expansion to accommodate more families whose children could benefit so greatly from inclusive education. The World could use more Rise School graduates. Please join us in supporting the amazing mission of this wonderful school.

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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! ←Back to Support Rise


The Watrous-Lennon Family

We chose The Rise School because we love and appreciate its model of inclusion, as well as the educated and knowledgeable teachers. Those items were our top priorities for our son’s education. We couldn’t be more pleased with our choice. His teacher made two amazing books for him (at her own suggestion and on her own time) when we went through two big changes in our family – These books helped him navigate and understand when his foster sister left to go to her grandmother, and we moved to a new home. Both times the book, complete with pictures and age appropriate language, helped our son through big transitions in his little life. We are so grateful for the care, support and openness of everyone involved with the Rise School. Our son is happy and thriving! ←Back to Support Rise


The Whitfield Family

My husband and I gave birth to a gorgeous little girl on a Tuesday in September 2016. We were overjoyed to hear that she was healthy and got wonderful Apgar scores, after worrying endlessly for the previous 4 months. I was followed for a high risk pregnancy. Skyler had some fluid around her heart on our 20 week ultrasound. This was the first of many “signs” for me that Skyler was going to be unique.

From the get-go, Skyler has been a sweet and good-natured girl but we struggled right away with breast feeding and feeding in general. Then noticed a strange noise she made when she was sleeping. After getting opinions from friends and family, ranging from night terrors to attachment disorders, we asked to have a sleep study. The results were terrifying. Skyler has severe sleep apnea. She struggles to breathe correctly about half of the time while she sleeps. Another sign. For the next couple months, each time she missed a milestone, the worries increased until finally an ENT doctor referred us to Genetics.

We knew a diagnosis wouldn’t change our love for our little girl, but we were anxious for answers. Finally the test results came back with a rare genetic condition called duplication of 2p. Basically, a piece of Skyler’s second chromosome repeated itself, giving her extra genetic information. Individuals with this condition have a high variability in their symptoms. Many struggle with speech and growth in addition to other developmental delays. With a diagnosis and evaluations showing that Skyler’s development were behind, we were able to start therapies with early intervention and Skyler began to hit milestones!

After watching her with other kids, I realized that Sky was extremely interested in her peers and learned quickly from them. We decided that even though I had the ability to stay home with her, and we couldn’t necessarily afford to send her to daycare, that she needed some interaction with other children and adults. We weren’t sure how to find a place where she wouldn’t get hurt by her peers or be set in a high chair away from the other kids, because of her need for more supervision. (Yes, this actually happened at a child care center.)

We were told about the Rise School from a friend who has a child with Down syndrome. After a tour, I knew that we needed to figure out a way for Skyler to go to this school and that it would make a huge difference in her development. Skyler wasn’t making many noises at age 2 and we weren’t sure when or if she ever would.

We were lucky enough to get a spot in August of 2018 and have been so incredibly impressed with the care and guidance Skyler receives each day. She has started to talk, and said her first word under the watch of her amazing teachers who caught it on video. I will never forget this moment and cry every time I watch the video. They provide support for Skyler’s feeding challenges and help me problem-solve to find ways to help Skyler achieve all sorts of new skills. Since starting at the Rise, Skyler has gained a new confidence in herself that is truly remarkable.

Raising a child with unique challenges is beautiful and hard. Places like the Rise School give families like us a safe and loving environment that stimulates our little ones in ways that maybe we can’t. As a first time mom, I struggle with many decisions concerning my little Sky, but I knew right away that I nailed this one. Thank you for your generosity and contributions to this wonderful school. Without them, my daughter may not have found her voice. ←Back to Support Rise

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Ms. Ashley’s Story

When I was almost 5 years old, I became a big sister. Shawn came early though, and he was born at 28-weeks weighing only 2 pounds and 1 ounce. At the time I didn't understand how concerning of a sentence that was, let alone why I couldn't see my mom or my brother for the longest time after I found out he was born. I discovered after the fact that Shawn had a severe brain bleed due to oxygen deprivation that destroyed parts of his brain and he needed to be delivered via an emergency C section or he and my mom would die. He was diagnosed officially with Hydrocephalus which meant a build up of excess fluid in the brain, and he didn't come home after he was born because he needed 7 brain surgeries before he was 3 months old to insert and fix his VP shunt that seemed to continue failing. The doctors told us that he would never walk or talk due to the extensive brain damage, and that he would have significant cognitive delays.

We called him our little miracle baby however, because he went on to walk just about when he was developmentally supposed to, and talk with his own little language until his speech developed as well. This February of 2019, Shawn will be 20 years old and cognitively function around a 3 to 8 year old level depending on the skillset, and he has brought so much joy to mine and my family's lives being the most stubborn, loving, sassy, epic basketball player we've been privileged to know and love.

Shawn, being such an important part of my life, shaped how I viewed the world and I realized early on that I wanted to be an advocate and educator in any way I could by working with those with special needs. I especially wanted to be around children because of my experience viewing Shawn grow tremendously from his early intervention services. I saw first hand how early childhood education can impact the life of just one little person, and knew if Shawn could benefit from in home therapies but had limited inclusive setting exposure until he was older, what amazing benefits could come from an inclusive early childhood preschool? Additionally, I grew to believe that any person who was a sibling, peer, friend, or classmate of someone with any disability immediately had a unique perspective to viewing the world with more compassion and sympathy for others traditionally perceived as different, and I loved seeing it happen.

I began working at the Rise School of Denver almost by a bunch of little accidents coming together to put me in the right place at the right time, and I'm so grateful to be at such an amazing school. Every day I'm able to see children with and without needs play, talk, and interact with one another in such positive ways, and watch all of them learn and grow from one another.

I've seen wonderful things like a nonverbal little boy used the sign for 'book' with me, unprompted, to have me read with him as he plopped into my lap. I've seen a typically developed child walk up to a child with needs, ask him to play and took his hand to bring him along. Just this week, I saw a child with needs who walks with assistance take 12 independent steps on his own for the first time.

The Rise School is a special place that fosters these beautiful little and big moments throughout each day because of it being an inclusive setting. With the trained therapists, educated teachers and staff, the quality that this school is able to provide to its students is amazing and I only wish my brother could have had a school like this one when he was little. I'm so glad to be a part of such a strong team of individuals that help shape the lives of so many wonderful little people, and hopefully you will consider giving any donation so even more families can continue to see their babies succeed. ←Back to Support Rise

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Miss Dylann's Story


Miss Dylann's Story

Home is where you go to feel happy, see people you truly care about, and push others to be the best they can be. Home is where you learn and where you grow. That's why it is hard to call Rise my place of work. Rise is my second home. I feel so incredibly lucky to go to a place everyday where my coworkers are warm and welcoming. I feel even luckier to be able to foster growth and success in our students' lives.

When people say that Rise is special, they mean just that. Rise is a place where first words are spoken and first steps are taken. With our special inclusion model, we have kiddos who learn and grow EVERY SINGLE DAY. The best part about this model is that the teachers aren't the only ones doing the teaching. Kids teach each other so much! They show each other new ways to play and take turns and solve problems. They stand at the gates to our classrooms and cheer on a peer who is taking first independent steps using a walker. Rise is a special place to be. Rise is a home to many people... kiddos and teachers.

Colorado Gives Day is an important day! This day allows for people all over Colorado to give back to their communities. Colorado Gives Day is a very important day for Rise as well. This is a day where we all band together and ask for people to think of us, the educators of our community's little ones, when deciding where to donate. Rise owns the building that we were previously renting. This is so exciting for the kiddos! This means we are now able to start renovating and expanding our space to better serve those kiddos currently at Rise, and to begin serving the 100+ kiddos on our waitlist. I humbly request that you, whoever is reading this, to seriously think about donating anything, a lot or a little, to Rise this Colorado Gives Day. The little ones of our future thanks you! ←Back to Support Rise

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 Mike Fortney, Board Member

My connection to The Rise School came from a friend and former parent of two girls who had gone through Rise. Our kids are grown so she thought I might enjoy participating as a member of the school Board of Directors now that I had more time to devote to outside activities. I’ve been an active member for almost 3 three years now and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The dedication and passion to the school and its mission from Meghan, her staff, and the parents is truly remarkable and unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. I’m honored to be a member of the Board and to work with them to provide the best possible learning environment for the kids who currently attend as well as many, many future generations of students. ←Back to Support Rise


Kristin's Story


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.

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Miss Megan's Story


As I sit down to write what Rise means to me, I find it hard to put into words, again. I said the same thing last year. It’s true, I don’t know how to express what this place, my work home, means to me. This is my third year at Rise, and as each year passes, I don’t know how I ended up in a gig where I watch children achieve milestones (really important ones!) on a regular basis, while at the same time, I get to watch children see no difference in one another, in fact, they celebrate each other’s differences. Just last week, one of my kiddos looked at their friend who typically wears glasses, watched him put them back on after nap, and without hesitation said, “You look perfect.”

This is my sixth year working in an inclusive preschool setting. From a staff members point of view, inclusion doesn’t get much better than this. Each child is met at their developmental level, whether it be from a lead teacher, one of two teaching assistants, one of four therapists, or a peer. Bottom line, everyone is included in all parts of the day. Our model works-- Kiddos who are typically developing learning alongside kiddos with special needs, while all receiving the same therapies. I am beyond thankful to have found Rise and to work in an environment that is so supportive of children and their families, but also of myself.

It’s an exciting time for us! Just ten days after Colorado Gives Day, we are scheduled to close on the purchase of our property on Eastman Avenue. With this purchase comes some much needed upgrades to our current building as well as the addition of four classrooms. With over 120 families still on our waitlist, the need to expand is overwhelmingly present. With your support, we will finally have a place of our own. So again, as I did last year, I’m asking you to support Rise and all that it stands for. ←Back to Support Rise


Mr. Sean's Story


I am not a parent of a child at Rise nor do I have any children of my own yet. However, I always tell my friends and family and even strangers about what a special place the Rise School of Denver is. I am beyond lucky to have an opportunity to work at such a special place with children who change my life every day.

When I describe my field of work to my family, friends, or just anyone who asks in general, they always tell me that I must be so patient and that it is just amazing what I am doing everyday as well as that the students I teach must be so lucky to learn from me every day. I understand all these comments and I am very appreciative! However, I always tell people it is not me who is teaching these children. They are the ones who are teaching me something new and changing my life each day. So really when you think about it, I am the one that is lucky to be able to be involved in these children’s lives. People also mention to me how I probably have tough days because of the behaviors that might be present or just from running around with children all day. In all honesty, yes there are tough days. However, every day has wonderful rewards. It’s when you see a child who can’t walk take her first steps or walk without help on her own for the first time. It’s when a nonverbal student of yours starts to babble or form words clearly. It’s when your students achieve one of his personal or academic goals. All of these things, plus many more, outweigh any challenging moments that I might have at school.

When I was about 10 years old, I told my parents that I wanted to help children and people with disabilities. I will never forget what my parents told me. They said, “ Sean, you have a special talent and that is having a big heart and following your dreams and don't ever forget that.” Well I am living one of my life goals and I am getting closer to another as I am getting my master’s degree in early childhood special education. I am very excited to be the best I can be every day and help these children be the best they can be too!

Inspiration is the only word that is needed to describe the Rise School of Denver. It all starts once you step into the Rise building. Right away 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. What makes Rise so special? I believe it starts with its exceptional model. Children, 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 unaware of differences and 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.

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, large or small, to help support the expansion of the Rise School of Denver. ←Back to Support Rise