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Denver Urban Scholars Receives Annual Accolades from Denver Metro Chamber

Large nonprofit of the year finalists for the annual business awards include Emily Griffith Foundation and Strive Preparatory Schools




Colorado ranks 49th out of 50 states in percentage of teen dropouts, and early intervention has proven to decrease the likelihood a child will drop out. 

Founded by Larry and Margaret Byrne as Byrne Urban Scholars more than 20 years ago, the organization provides at-risk middle- and high-schoolers with resources to stay in school. Today, the nonprofit partners with high poverty, high performing schools to unlock the potential of students facing adversity by creating individual pathways to college and eventually a career. Under the leadership of the Byrne's son, Patrick, Denver Urban Scholars now serves more than 100 students each year, offering free support for students and their families. 

"There's a major need in the community," says Patrick Byrne, the nonprofit's executive director. 

Through its Stepping StonesMilestones and Capstones programs, Denver Urban Scholars has worked to reverse some of the negative statistics.

Partnering with several top-performing middle and high schools in the metro area, participation in the program has grown increasingly competitive. Those who qualify show potential and commitment, but may lack the necessary support structure to be successful academically.

Each student who is accepted into the program, receives a caseworker and mentor, with a combination of family support, tutoring and financial assistance.

For Denver Urban Scholars, the results over the last year, speak for themselves:

  • 95 percent progress on time to the next grade level
  • 94 percent graduation rate
  • 88 percent of those who graduated went on to post-secondary schooling

Within the last year, Denver Urban Scholars joined forces with Colorado Youth at Risk, taking the best of both organizations and deepening the collective impact to increase the number of youth served.



Founded in 1990, the mission of the Emily Griffith Foundation is to provide financial support to Emily Griffith Technical College in the areas of student scholarships, capital improvements, instructional equipment, project endowments and other needs that cannot be funded by the regular financial sources of the school.

The principles upon which Emily Griffith Technical College were built include:

  • Open admission
  • Ever-changing curriculum
  • Free tuition 

In the college's 100-plus year history, more than 2 million students have been served. The institution's annual economic impact on the Denver region exceeds $60 million, and total economic and human capital impact between 2006 and 2016 was documented at $2.2 billion.

In the last handful of years, the Foundation has provided nearly $2 million to students through tuition grants, fees and books. Beginning with a gift of $20,000, the foundation today operates with a base of approximately $500,000. Funds are raised from a variety of sources, including sponsored events, fundraisers, individual donors, corporate and foundation grants and estates.


Strive Preparatory Schools is a Denver-based community of free, open enrollment public charter schools committed to providing college-prep courses. Launched 11 years ago, students come from all backgrounds – including ethnicity, race, economic circumstance and previous academic achievement. 

To provide accessible, high-quality, public education for more of Denver’s students, Strive Prep expanded into Southwest Denver and later into Northwest and far Northeast Denver. To date, the school has served more than 3,500 students in 11 locations, spanning K-12.

The program has an "equity agenda," that includes changes to enrollment and school practices with the aim of serving more students.

2018 Business Awards - Large Nonprofit Organization of the Year Finalists from Denver Metro Chamber on Vimeo.

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Gigi Sukin

Gigi Sukin is the former digital editor of ColoradoBiz.

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