Beanstalk Foundation

What's right with Colorado is right next door.

Academy of Urban Learning

Learning for the City

The Academy of Urban Learning ensures high schoolers on hard times gain an education

The Academy of Urban Learning (AUL) is a Denver Public Schools' charter school that caters specifically to youth and younger adults in Denver (ages 16 - 21), working through grades 9 - 12, who are in at-risk, impoverished, and facing other difficult situations. Without AUL, most of the 150 students the school serves each year wouldn’t be in school at all. Instead, they might be on the streets, working to support their families, or well, you can imagine a lot that isn’t great. It’s more than a school, it’s an opportunity to gain the tools and experience to make positive impacts in their lives while in school, and in the community immediately after high school, and beyond.


Repaid in Spades

Katie Symons is the 007 of Paying It Forward

“If I can't pay it forward in this lifetime, there's really not a whole lot of point to me being on this earth,” Katie Symons wrote on her Beanstalk Leader application. It’s a powerful ultimatum to place on one’s own life, but Symons does it with a knowing smile. She’s actively seeking and fulfilling her “point” each and every day. And as for "paying it forward", Katie makes her payments with a whole heap of extra interest. She’s the James Bond of charitable greatness. Nothing can stop her. Nobody does it better. Katie isn’t so dour as the current Bond, though, she’s more like the Gal with the Golden Smile. With her joyous laugh, and licence to heal, there isn’t a cause this special agent can’t tackle.


Katie currently works in homeless and human services with the Governor’s Office of Community Partnerships and strives for environmental sustainability with Waste Management. Past missions have included: 7-County Metro Denver Initiative and Denver's Road Home. She even teamed with the likes of The Bridge Project, Rishel Middle School/Beacon Program, West High School and the University of Denver on operations to improve education. Secret Agent Katie also organized community and promoted organizational change via Master's Program in Leadership and Organizational Change at DU. She has even independently consulted on strategic community development. It’s an impressive dossier that intimidates the lackeys and sidekicks of social unfairness. And all her good works, like diamonds, are forever.


The Spy Who Served Us

In short, Katie Symons is a super-special-social agent. Her mission to “pay it forward” requires myriad tactics, and luckily she’s trained in over 400 methods of hand-to-hand of giving back. She’s has been on Her Community’s secret service for about 20 years; with 10 at Community Resources, Inc., and 2 years each with the Academy of Urban Learning and Harm Reduction Action Center. To those who might say, “You only give twice,” Katie replies, “Give today! And give another day!”


Really, special agent Katie Symons was raised Catholic and her mother tried to instill the value of giving in her from an early age. Around Christmas time Katie’s mother would adopt a family, give food to the local food bank, cook meals for people at church who were sick or give rides to people without cars. That’s where the training began. When this 00Giving was in Middle School, she put together sandwiches and lunches to distribute to folks in the Triangle Park area who were homeless (just outside of Samaritan House and Denver Rescue Mission). Making around 150 lunches each Sunday, she and family friends would head downtown, open up the hatchback and hand them out to whomever was there and wanting a lunch; often chatting with the homeless people there.


She was further inspired by worldview-altering teaching stints in Mexico, Nicaragua, Chile and Brazil that opened her eyes to the fact that the current response to poverty, homelessness, hunger and educational problems in the United States and around the World, is not enough. The youthful Symons focuses on assuaging the damages of poverty, mitigating and preventing homelessness and ensuring that all youth receive educational opportunities and tools. Luckily, unlike the aforementioned Mr. Bond, Katie’s works leave no collateral damage. She doesn’t fight anyone with a knife-sharp hat brim or metal teeth either. That we know of.


Katie Symons works all over Denver, taking on just about any mission. She is driven by her passion to give back, and her knowledge that all she’s had in life were blessings to be passed along. She’s unlikely to appear in a 1960s Aston Martin, but you can be sure that her spy's eyes are on the causes that affect us all. She’s ensuring that we all get to live and help live.