What’s in a number? JVA and DPS receive perfect score on GEAR UP grant

By Robert Jakubowski, JVA Consulting

JVA's Robert Jakubowski speaks with sixth and seventh graders from Denver Public Schools about college and career goals.

106. A perfect score. A testament to what can happen when a passionate and focused team is leveraged toward a common goal.

So what does it all mean? JVA and Denver Public Schools (DPS) recently got the news that they had received a perfect score (a 106 out of 106 possible points) on a U.S. Department of Education Grant JVA wrote on behalf of DPS. Although the number 106 did not have any special meaning prior to writing the grant for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergrad Programs (GEAR UP) funding, it now means a great deal to DPS youth, district leaders and the JVA team.

My immediate reaction to this grant announcement was focused on how well the JVA/DPS team did on the grant itself. However, after celebrating this achievement with my colleagues, I began to think more about the purpose of the GEAR UP grant. At that point, the number 106 became more about real-world social change, and less about skills in grantwriting. Because of JVA’s efforts, and the work of Cori Canty, (DPS Director of Counseling), and other community partners (see Denver Post announcement here), DPS will receive $4.8 million to help low-income youth realize their college aspirations. Through this funding, close to 1,000 students, across eight schools in Northwest Denver, will receive focused college-attainment services over the next eight years. With this funding, DPS will not only be able to increase college attainment among GEAR UP students at these schools, but also learn a great deal about the support all DPS students need to reach college. In addition, the results that the JVA GEAR UP evaluation team will uncover over the next several years have the potential to impact  countless youth across the state, and even the U.S.

As I attended the District media event for this funding, the number 106 became even more personal. At this event, I had the privilege of listening to a diverse group of DPS sixth and seventh graders talk about their career aspirations, and what they want to do “when they grow up.” Having worked on social research projects in the past, I realize that the obstacles these underserved youth will face over the next several years could be severe. However, in that moment, listening to Denver youth talk about wanting to be surgeons, geologists, bakers, fishermen, athletes, scientists, drummers, game designers, archeologists, and architects; listening to the sophistication of how they were going to get there…taking science and math, focusing on the arts, traveling abroad, getting good grades, listening to their parents, applying for scholarships, and “studying hard”; and hearing more about what they experienced during recent college visits, I was reminded that no matter how big or small, we all have an opportunity for impact.

As I think more about the issues that these youth will face, and the state of education in Colorado and across the country, I realize that there will always be sizeable challenges. However, for those tirelessly working toward social change, there are battles to be won and silver linings to be had. Yes, 106 is just a number, but to me, it represents all of the positive things that can happen when group determination is directed toward serving others. So…what’s in a number? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

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