Bringing nonprofits together in Colorado

New organization looks to create a shift in childhood education

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A new nonprofit created by three Colorado philanthropists aims to help children throughout their school careers and beyond by bringing other nonprofit organizations together.

PIVOT — founded by Broncos general manager John Elway and businessmen Larry Mueller and George Solich — will focus on the areas of nutrition, mental health and mentorship. It will start as a pilot program at the Girls Athletic Leadership Schools (GALS),a single gender-focusedgroup of charter schools.

The name PIVOT came from the idea that this is “a slight movement of an existing organization,” Mueller said.

By bringing in multiple nonprofits, PIVOT can help schools focus on the whole child instead of the individual missions of specific nonprofits, said Mueller, the treasurer of PIVOT. One example Mueller used was after-school organizations, which focus on what the child is doing while they are participating in their programming.

“I think they should also have a focus on what happens to those kids when they walk out the door,” Mueller said. “They’re dealing with many issues that ultimately affect how they do in school.”

GALS operates a girls-only middle school and high school and a boys-only high school, the Boys School of Denver. The pilot will focus on the girls’ middle and high schools, 750 Galapago St., Principal Carol Bower said. The schools have 620 students across all three programs with 480 in the girls’ schools. Some of the mental health programming will also go into the boys’ school, Bower said.

Building PIVOT

The three founders came together in May of last year to create PIVOT.

Mueller is the CEO of Cuvée, a luxury travel company that hosts an annual charity fundraiser, Flight to Luxury. In September, funds from Flight to Luxury went toward PIVOT. The event raised $279,800, which GALS received in December. 

With some of that money, it started a year-long mentorship with The Boys and Girls Club of Denver in December. GALS partnered 40 sophomores with college-educated mentors who can help guide students through issues in their day-to-day lives, Mueller said.

PIVOT hopes to follow students not only through their middle and high school careers, but also as they continue into higher education and future careers, Mueller said.

“We’re already interweaving that into the school day,” Bower said of mentorship programming at GALS. PIVOT “brought up another layer for us to impact our students really well.”

For the nutrition program, the funds will go toward education as well as a garden at the school. The school and PIVOT are partnering with Big Green, a national nonprofit that brings gardens to low-income schools to help build a nutrition program. Garden spaces were installed on April 5 with students planting batches of lettuce and kale. Big Green received a portion of the funds raised in the Flight to Luxury event to install the gardens at GALS.

Deysi Parga and Iliana De La Rosa are 10th-grade students at GALS. Parga enjoyed planting, saying it made her feel like she was part of the community. De La Rosa agreed, saying the nutrition and gardening component of the program will help give her an understanding of where food comes from.

Both students have also been working with mentors through the PIVOT grant.

“It’s just free help, honestly,” Parga said. “Scholarships, college. They train you for the future.”

GALS will be working with the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver for the mental health focus. The school’s dean, Dr. Shelly Smith-Acuña, said hiring for the program is underway. The university will give support as needed at GALS, which already had some mental health classes for its students.

“They really do a lovely job at looking at social and emotional development,” Smith-Acuña said. “You have to work with the community to know what the community needs are.”

GALS is already teaching students that it is OK to talk about mental health, Smith-Acuña said. This helps students think about and learn to address stress and other struggles with mental health.

The fact that GALS already had some programming in place was part of the reason PIVOT selected the school for the pilot program, Mueller said.

Bower is someone who thinks outside of the box, to the benefit of her students, he said.

For her part, Bower said the funding is an “amazing bolster” to programming important to the school.

Mueller hopes the organization will raise enough money to expand in Colorado. His goal is to raise $10 million within the next two years.

“One of the focuses at PIVOT is to execute that strategy,” he said. “The opportunity is large, but what it really takes is money and leadership.”

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