CBS4 News at 10 p.m. is airing a special series of reports called the 12 Days of Christmas nightly through Dec. 24, featuring local neighborhoods and families in need who have been helped by the community and area non-profit organizations. CBS4 newscasters are featuring community organizations they feel a genuine and passionate connection towards.

Written by Kathy WalshDENVER (CBS4) – For many low income children, education can be the only way to break the cycle of poverty.

It was a sacrifice for my family to send me to college, but my parents saw the value in strong schooling. That’s why I’ve chosen to highlight “The Challenge Foundation” in my 12 Days of Christmas story. It’s a non-profit dedicated to helping low income students from 6th grade through college.

The Challenge Foundation is a second family to disadvantaged kids. The people at Challenge wrap their arms around the students and help them realize a dream they never thought possible.

Ramona Sandoval, 16, is interested, even excited about school.

“I love it,” Sandoval told me. “I think it’s a really welcoming community, definitely the biggest blessing I’ve ever received.”

Sandoval attends St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls, independent, Catholic high school in Cherry Hills Village. It is miles from her west Denver home. It is another world for Sandoval.

“Things like gangs, or you know, ditching school; all the things I see my best friends getting caught up in, I know I’d be right there with them,” said Sandoval.

Instead, in 6th grade, she came to St. Mary’s by way of The Challenge Foundation. The group partnered with the school to give her a scholarship and Challenge has committed to getting Sandoval all the way through college. It’s an investment started by Don McFall.

“Everybody today, educators, organizations are working on ways to improve our educational system. But as you look at the results the needle hasn’t moved much,” said McFall.

So, the real estate developer decided to put inner city kids in St. Mary’s, a school with high expectations.

“Here, it is cool to be smart,” said McFall.

And Challenge makes it possible with tutors, mentors, even transportation and summer programs.

“We have everything a kid would need to succeed in this environment,” said McFall.

In 12 years, McFall has now been a hero to more than 100 disadvantaged kids, including Indya Clark, 21.

“We were homeless for about a year,” Clark told me.

Clark went through St. Mary’s Academy with the help of Challenge then won a full scholarship to the University of Denver. She will complete both her undergraduate and master’s degree in social work in 5 years.

“Challenge is a godsend,” said Clark. “It has definitely pushed me to an entirely new level and I really want to provide what they have provided to other people.”

Giving back is instilled in Challenge students. Ramona Sandoval also plans to pursue social work. She knows the importance of unwavering support.

“Without people believing in me, I never would have believed in myself the way that I do,” said Sandoval.

“That’s why we’re here, to help other people,” said McFall, “and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to help these young kids.”

Additional Resources

To learn more about The Challenge Foundation and to help their cause go to


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