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The evolution of a thriving school

Posted on April 25, 2022, by Vicki Schwartz SL

A man stands with a crowd of children behind a red ribbon as he prepares to cut it.
Tony Vigil, Escuela’s first principal, cuts the ribbon on opening day.
Photo by Regina Drey SL

Escuela de Guadalupe’s mission is “to support and uplift the global community, our families and our students by offering an education that integrates Spanish and English biliteracy, Catholic values and academic rigor.” Now in its 23rd year of operation, Escuela de Guadalupe is well established in the Denver area as a dual-language school, as an independent Catholic school and as a school on the path to accreditation by the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS).

Escuela has deep Loretto roots. Susan Swain SL and Joy Gerity CoL, who had been principals at St. Mary’s Academy, were members of Escuela’s founding group in 1999. They saw the wisdom of initiating a dual-language school in one of the city’s predominately Hispanic neighborhoods, and they helped educate Loretto regarding dual-language education and its connection to Loretto school values. The by laws of Escuela’s Board of Trustees require that at least one member of the Loretto Community serves on the board.

Escuela fosters its Catholic identity by opening each school day with prayer, by celebrating the Eucharist weekly with the entire student body, by celebrating Catholic feast days, such as the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), by preparing students for First Communion and Confirmation, and by participating in educational opportunities sponsored by the Archdiocesan Office of Education.

For several of the earlier years, David Card served as president and established Escuela’s financial stability during very challenging times. David now serves as President of Regis Jesuit High School in Denver. Escuela owes much to his hard work and dedication.

This was our dream. And it was realized.

Susan Swain SL on the opening of Escuela de Guadalupe

In the early days, the curriculum covered kindergarten through fifth grade; now it’s a pre-k through eighth-grade school, with a student body of 213 children. Escuela graduated its first eighth-grade class on June 19, 2019.

Ideally, children are admitted into pre-k, kindergarten or first grade. By the time the children reach fourth grade, they are bilingual, and by the time they reach sixth grade, they are fully biliterate. The pre-k program is a full-day program for children who are 4 years of age. The program currently maintains the highest rating through Colorado Shines, a Colorado state rating and improvement system that monitors and supports early learning programs.

Two boys, one white, one Black, wearing school uniforms, stand with arms around each other's shoulders.
Miguel and Judah share smiles and friendship.
Photo courtesy of Escuela de Guadalupe

Beginning in kindergarten, students start building a strong foundation in their native language through targeted literacy instruction. They develop their second language skills through instruction in math, science and social studies. In addition to accessing Escuela’s holistic, culturally-rich curriculum, students enrolled in the K-5 program participate in art, music and physical education classes. If a child enters after first grade, an extensive tutoring program assists the child in advancing to grade level.

Escuela’s middle school program is designed to build on students’ academic achievement through mastery of the core content, while helping them develop the socioemotional competencies they will need to thrive in a college preparatory high school environment and beyond. At present, almost all eighth graders pass the Catholic high school entrance tests and attend those schools, including St. Mary’s Academy, a Loretto-connected school. Escuela maintains contact with its graduates during their high school years to provide support. Ninety-seven percent of Escuela graduates complete high school and 61% go on to higher education.

Angel working on a math assignment.
Photo courtesy of Escuela de Guadalupe

Currently, Escuela is in the process of attaining accreditation through ACIS. While this is a rigorous multi-year process, ACIS recognizes the achievements of Escuela and is most supportive of its endeavors regarding accreditation. In recent years Escuela’s President Michelle Galuszka and Principal Mariella Robledo have established relationships with both the local ACIS governing body and member schools in the area.

A boy in a graduation gown stands with his father.
Ramesh, a proud father, congratulates his son Diego at graduation.
Photo courtesy of Escuela de Guadalupe

As is true for all schools, COVID-19 presented significant challenges. Because most Escuela parents work full time and could not afford childcare, Escuela maintained in person education almost exclusively during the pandemic, while complying with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado and City of Denver regulations.

About 15 Escuela families who were not eligible for pandemic relief checks received assistance through Loretto’s Special Needs Fund. Loretto also contributes to Escuela’s financial assistance program and is one of the sponsors of ¡Salud!, the school’s annual fundraising gala.

In 1999, Susan Swain said of the newly-birthed school that she hoped it would celebrate its 20th anniversary, 25th anniversary and beyond. Escuela is well on its way!

These achievements do not come easily, but they were, and continue to be, realized by unusually committed staff and members of the Board of Trustees.

If you wish additional information about Escuela or if you wish to support the school, visit Escuela’s website: www.escuelaguadalupe.org.

Read or download the entire Spring 2022 issue of Loretto Magazine here.


Vicki Schwartz SL

Vicki Schwartz SL is a member of Loretto’s Executive Committee and Community Forum.
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