The Urban Land Conservancy celebrates the achievements of its partnerships that create and preserve nonprofit facilities and affordable housing for communities in metro Denver. ULC’s Monthly Partner Spotlight is awarded to partners who demonstrate the value of collaboration, furthering our mission to improve the lives of Denver area residents through our real estate investments and community assets.

Congratulations to our June Partner Spotlight of the Month:   Family Star Montessori!

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ULC is happy to announce Family Star Montessori as our June 2016 Partner Spotlight. Family Star’s history dates back to the late 1980’s in the Northeast part of Denver. A group of parents, striving to support their declining neighborhood, created the foundation for Family star in 1988. With founder Dr. Martha Urioste taking the lead, Family Star opened its doors in 1991 after five community members received teaching certifications from the Montessori Institute. By 2001, Family Star had a base of over 140 children in its Denver network.

Today, Family Star Montessori’s values are as strong as they were 25 years ago. With a goal of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to receive a Montessori education regardless of income, Family Star now educates over 200 children across Metro Denver. Monica Roers, the Executive Director of Family Star, explained that a majority of the children come from low income families, and rely on assistance to attend the childcare facility. Thankfully, Family Star has a grant with Head Start that contributes to roughly half of Family Star’s necessary funding. The remaining half comes from an array of areas including government grants, the Denver Preschool Program and private tuition from families.

Roers explained that the Head Start funding has been crucial for Family Star, as it not only offers children the opportunity for quality education and development, but provides wrap around services well. These services aim to assist families with issues ranging from domestic violence to mental health services. They also include full assessments to gauge the children’s overall health and set them up with Medicaid and doctor’s visits if need be.

Since their founding 25 years ago, Family Star now has childcare facilities in three separate locations. Their two physical centers are in Northwest Denver on Federal boulevard and Northeast Denver in Curtis Park. Family Star also offers a home based program that serves low income families that cannot send their children to an out of home day care program. The home based program provides families with a childcare provider once a week for an hour and a half each visit. All in total, Family Star now serves over 200 children ages 0-6 between its three programs.

Family Star and Urban Land Conservancy started their relationship in 2011, when Family Star realized they were outgrowing their current location. Roers explained that the organization had been in the same building for almost 20 years, and it desperately needed renovations. Aaron Miripol, President of the Urban Land Conservancy, knew that Family Star would fill a significant need in the Curtis Park neighborhood.

“After working in Curtis Park for many years, ULC recognized the community’s need for a childcare facility,” Miripol explained. “With their long-standing dedication and success in early childhood education, we felt that Family Star would be a strong institution to provide support for families. Welcoming Family Star into this neighborhood has given many children the opportunity to receive a  quality education in an incredible facility.”

ULC purchased the Curtis Park Community Center and neighboring administrative building in January 2012 with support from the Denver Office of Economic Development. ULC and Family Star then partnered to complete extensive renovations to the community center and gym that had been vacant for many years. For Family Star, this acquisition allowed them to expand their services and operate in a newly updated and safe facility.

“The dilemma that we were in was that we had to sell the one building to be able to buy the other and the financing was pretty tight,” Roers said. “We wouldn’t have been able to move into our new building – actually the entire transition process was not feasible – without a partner like ULC. The fact that they worked so well with us to make it happen was great.”

With an operating staff of 65 people and over 200 children to watch over daily, Family Star is making leaps and bounds in the world of youth education. And the Urban Land Conservancy is not the only one taking notice. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is one of the highest ranking honors to receive in the world of education. In September of 2015, Family Star’s Northeast branch took home a gold star for quality in early childhood programming, and their Northwest branch followed suit this past January. The accreditation lasts for five years, with periodic check-ins.

ULC is incredibly proud to partner with such a strong program that directly impacts the lives of youth. Family Star is now an anchor institution in the neighborhood and supports ULC’s mission of providing real estate that benefits community! If you are interested in learning more about Family Star, please visit their website. They offer year round enrollment, currently Family Star has openings for full fee families interested in enrolling their children in the 3-4 year old department.

Congratulations Family Star Montessori!