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Samaritan House turns schoolhouse after partnership paves way for online learning

Davian, 15, uses a laptop at Samaritan House shelter in downtown Denver to attend online classes. A partnership and grant with University Prep enabled families to enroll their children at the tuition-free charter school and provided a robust Wi-Fi connection.

When schools suspended in-person learning during COVID-19, Angelina felt unprepared to teach her teenage boy and 6-year-old son at the same time, especially while staying at a shelter.

“They have totally different learning needs,” said Angelina, 40, from the Samaritan House shelter in Denver. “Having them both inside the room at one time was a challenge in itself. Samaritan House provided a lot of support.”

Samaritan House staffer Lara Adamson reached out for help from the local school district and to University Prep (U Prep), a northeast Denver tuition-free charter school. Adamson took steps to ensure their families children had the education tools they needed. She led a transformation of a playroom into a schoolhouse and through a new partnership with U Prep, the children and teenage participants became better engaged with online learning and stayed current with their studies.

“A lot of families were impressed with our school and impressed we have a big stress on academics,” said Chintan Desai, manager of scholar recruitment and enrollment at U Prep. “We have a lot of kids from Samaritan House enrolled who we think are going to get a better education than they would have at another school.”

Desai said about 10 students from the shelter are enrolled at U Prep, which serves low-income families in the downtown Denver area. The other children at Samaritan House are enrolled at Denver Public Schools.

U Prep also provided funding to enable the shelter with a robust Wi-Fi connection. Desai visited weekly to assist with enrollment, problem solving and the materials needed for successful online learning. Samaritan House staff helped students stay on track.

“Our team is so grateful for our ongoing collaboration throughout this wild school year,” said  Adamson, who oversees the children’s program at Samaritan House. “I don’t know what I would have done without so much support from University Prep and the school district at large.”

The benefits were felt by families, especially Angelina who was focused on finding stable housing, saving for the future and starting a new life for herself and her two boys. She was once in an unhealthy relationship, she said, and sought help at Samaritan House years ago. She returned last summer with her children and has found greater success in its family program.

“It made it a lot easier,” she said, referring to the help from U Prep and her case manager. “I was able to have help. I couldn’t have done it without Samaritan House. They’re like family.”

Angelina said she was recently approved for affordable, permanent housing — the first time after years of shelters and temporary living situations.

“I know Samaritan House is my biggest support,” Angelina said.

Adamson said she is grateful for the ongoing collaboration with U Prep and the school district, pending until the children are back in school full-time.

“We are grateful to their team and their generous donation and so pleased to continue collaboration for the sake of our kiddos staying at Samaritan House,” Adamson said.

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Western Slope Services

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