Hard Work Pays Off – TOSA Denver is Here!

Never doubt the impact a small group of thoughtful, committed people can have on the world – it’s the advice from Margaret Mead that sums up the work we’ve seen time and time again in Colorado. Most recently, it’s exactly what brings The Other Side Academy (TOSA) to Denver.
Last week marked the culmination of three years of hard work by Andrew Schmidt and several other Chamber members and Leadership Foundation alumni – The Other Side Academy: Denver opened its doors and welcomed its first class of students. (Check out coverage from the ribbon cutting on Denver7 and CBS Denver).

What is The Other Side Academy? It’s a two-year residential program that offers vocational training, education, peer counseling and mentoring, leadership training and transitional services as an alternative to incarceration.

We first were introduced to The Other Side Academy in Salt Lake on a Leadership Exchange (LEX) trip in 2016 – where we invite 160 business and community leaders to learn from and “borrow” (let’s be honest, we are really stealing) really good ideas from other cities. We were inspired by this model of peer support and accountability to help people change their lives and break the cycle of recidivism.

And, the program is self-sustaining through social enterprise – here in Denver, students will run a moving company, which launched last week – they already have 22 moves booked! Colorado’s program was also modeled after the successful enterprise run in Salt Lake – and, get this: The Other Side Movers is the top-rated moving company in their community.

The payback of a program like this to the community is huge – Salt Lake estimates it saved taxpayers $21 million two years after opening. But helping people heal, reclaim their esteem and return to their communities is truly priceless.

Andrew, along with fellow LEX delegates, formed the initial advisory committee following an impassioned town hall on the last day of LEX: Salt Lake City where Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock asked the business community to help replicate this model. From then, this group has raised nearly $3 million (from individuals to foundations including Colorado Health Foundation, Daniels Fund and Anschutz Foundation), secured a property for students, vehicles for the moving company and more.

A special thank you to the “small group of thoughtful people” (TOSA’s steering committee) that has changed our world:  Sean Campbell, Bob Deibel, Brad Fentress, Chad Gentry, Anthony Graves, Denver Councilman Chris Herndon, Kittie Hook, Bruce James, Jeremy Katz, Margie Mauldin, Charlotte Min Harris, Kirk Monroe, Ceyl Prinster, Amy Venturi, Kirsten Vermulen and Beth Wolfson. And, thank you to the countless others who have helped with fundraising, donations and offering your time.

Find out more about TOSA Denver.

Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.