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Pay it Forward Fund: Taking Care of Our Community

ISDenver’s Pay It Forward Fund has been a perfect example of one big, united family taking care of all its members in a time of need. “Pay It Forward,” after all, means that when someone does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person instead. Because of the amazing generosity of those who could help, more than $100,000 has been paid forward and over 40 students who were at risk of not being able to stay at ISDenver have been able to continue their educations here.

Back in March of 2020, enrollment was full and new families had received admission invitations; financial assistance awards had been finalized; and parents were now looking forward to Gala,  the year’s biggest fundraiser, only a week away. Then COVID-19 started changing our world. Schools, businesses, government entities closed down--the early assumption being for a week or two--but time dragged on, and the virus was not slowing down. Fortunately, ISDenver pivoted quickly to virtual learning, but it became apparent that our families were struggling--facing immediate loss of income at best or of a whole business at worst, or paying for childcare while school went virtual but the necessity of being at a job marched forward.

“We needed to act and to act fast, to ensure that our community could stay together--a benefit both to the families facing challenging decisions and also important for the health of all of our children in keeping classmates together,” explained Alexis Wooll, Senior Director of Advancement & External Relations. “We also started to face growing economic uncertainty and fear from people who could see their inability to honor their tuition commitment for the upcoming year.”

We could no longer throw our big festive annual Gala, so we changed gears, and put our efforts where they were needed most: tuition “relief.” The Pay It Forward Fund was born. Unlike traditional Financial Assistance, which provides a one-time reduction that is applied to the tuition due for the year, Pay It Forward Awards offered short-term tuition relief for currently enrolled families, determined on an as-needed basis. It could be that a family needed help for one month of tuition while their self-owned business got back on its feet; it could be that someone only needed a partial tuition reduction for a couple of months as they awaited a paycheck. The Pay It Forward Fund was used to assist in these instances to help ease the burden that friends and family in the ISDenver community were bearing. 

“We released our inspiring annual video online and encouraged families to watch it together,” Alexis recalled, “and we did our first ever text campaign for donations. Community response was swift and generous--an amazing example of our community coming together to support each other.”

As Head of School Bob Carignan said when the Pay It Forward Fund was initiated, “If you’re struggling to make tuition payments, my answer today is the same as it was one year ago, and the same I hope it will be one year from now:  talk with us -- let us know. We are absolutely going to do everything in our power to ensure you remain a part of the ISDenver community. While we do what we can with our Financial Assistance -- greatly expanded over the past few years thanks to our generous Community Giving donors -- COVID-19 is putting unprecedented financial strains on our families. We value you. We care about you. We don’t want you adding the stress of changing schools to everything you’re already dealing with.”

The need is still great, so we ask that you put ISDenver high on your list of priorities this December 1 on Giving Tuesday. Bob explains it this way: “I’m not going to be shy about Community Giving. We deserve your support this year. We’ve proven that we care about keeping your kids safe. It’s an expensive time to run a school, as you can imagine. We have more people on financial assistance and the dollars needed are bigger. This year in particular it helps us keep more kids and families who may not have been able to come back through increased financial aid.” This is truly Paying It Forward.

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