DENVER — On this day 15 years ago, the Denver Scholarship Foundation launched its pilot program in three Denver Public Schools high schools.
Since then, DSF has awarded more than $52 million in total scholarships to 8,272 DPS graduates, and 81.9% of DSF Scholars in the most recent six-year group are enrolled in college or have already graduated with a degree or certificate.
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In 2006, Jackelyn Nguyen was a senior at Lincoln High School, who knew she wanted to go to college but did not know how she could pay for it.
"I was a first-generation college student," Nguyen said. "My parents immigrated from Vietnam, and they had nothing. They came from the war. They came from literally poverty. So, for us, it was important to be able to go to college... to know their sacrifice was worth their effort.
The Denver Scholarship Foundation stepped in to provide college advising, scholarships and support through college.
"Our mission has never wavered," said Renae Bellew, a senior program director at DSF. "It's always been to support DPS students to and through college, and in 15 years, we've never wavered from that."
Antonio Esquibel, the Lincoln High School principal, was there when the Denver Scholarship Foundation opened its future center in the school, guiding students on college and career opportunities.
"I think what it does, most importantly, is provide our students with hope," Esquibel said. "If they weren't with us, I think there'd be literally hundreds of students that would have not gone to college from Lincoln."
Jackelyn Nguyen went on to graduate from the University of Denver with her bachelor's degree and her MBA. She now works at Zoom, a position she started just before the pandemic.
"It's an excellent time to work for Zoom," Nguyen said. "They're a great company. They're growing rapidly. They've got a great culture, and I've been blessed every single day that I've been able to work for them. This was my dream. Get a degree. Live the American dream that my parents didn't get, what they wanted for me as immigrants, 100%."
DSF currently operates 14 Future Centers, which serve students from 22 DPS high schools, and partners with 31 technical colleges, community colleges and universities in Colorado to provide on-campus support for DSF Scholars.