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  • Writer's pictureDenver Academy of Torah

Truman Scholars Profiles DAT

Truman Scholars Partner School: Denver Academy of Torah

Talking to: Mrs. Lisa Stroll, Head of School

Location: Denver, CO

About DAT: Denver Academy of Torah, now in its thirtieth year of serving the Colorado Jewish community, is a dynamic, K-12, Modern Orthodox, Zionist Jewish day school. Our purpose is to nurture students to be Torah-observant role models and future leaders. We achieve this by providing our students with an intellectually rigorous and innovative education imbued with a love of the people, land, and state of Israel.

Student body: We have 182 students enrolled at our school, including 43 in our high school. All of our classes are co-ed. Our average class has 14 students, and our student-to-teacher ratio is less than 7-to-1.

Pictured: Denver Academy of Torah's Truman Scholars participants and school leaders.

Tell us the history of DAT: Denver Academy of Torah was founded in 1993 by a group of Colorado families who were committed to Torah education and passionate about raising students to be pro-Israel, pro-America, and supportive of their local community. Originally a K-6 school, we added a permanent middle school in 2001 and a permanent high school in 2013. Our K-12 school now resides on a beautiful, unified, nine-acre campus in east Denver, within easy walking distance of eight Orthodox minyanim, two Conservative congregations, and one Reform temple.

Fun fact: It is now quite commonplace for Jewish families—particularly those tired of the smog and congestion of New York and California—to move to the fresh mountain air of Denver, CO.

But the Denver Jewish community dates back to the antebellum period. In fact, Denver Academy of Torah has taught the descendants of pioneering Jews—yiddin who came to the Mile High City in covered wagons!

What makes DAT special? Have you ever gone on vacation to a warm climate, left your hotel room balcony door open, and seamlessly walked between indoors and outside without experiencing a temperature change?

That’s what it is like for the 182 students who leave home each morning and arrive at Denver Academy of Torah. We are an extension of home—a true community school that cares deeply about each of its students and provides a personal approach to education. Most of our students and many of our faculty live within easy walking distance of school—attending the same neighborhood shuls on Shabbat, shopping at the same grocery stores, and playing touch football in the same parks.

Students of all ages—from elementary through high school—are excited to see their teachers and classmates at Colorado Rockies games on Chol HaMoed Pesach and go on hiking trips together to one of our state’s fifty-eight “14ers” (peaks that rise at least 14,000 feet above sea level). It’s no wonder that a national survey of high school students found that our few dozen had the best Covid-era educational experience of any in the country.

But what makes us truly stand out—as Mark Twain once opined about the Jewish people as a whole—is that our “importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of [our] bulk.” Yes, our students are at home in our nurturing environment. And, yes, we provide challenging college- and yeshiva-prep classes. But the end product is that we develop students who are resilient, who can problem solve, and who are ready for communal leadership roles.

Two years ago, one of our students was named NCSY’s international president, while another two were accepted to Binghamton University in slots reserved for the top 120 applicants (out of more than 40,000). Last year, a full fifty percent of our senior class committed to colleges where they had received merit-based scholarships or were attending honors programs.

Why did you want DAT to participate in the Truman Scholars Program? Denver Academy of Torah is committed to developing our students into the next generation of Jewish and secular leaders. As excellent as our in-school education and programs are, we recognize that we cannot and should not achieve our results alone.

In order for students to be true leaders, they must engage with people from outside their immediate community in a professional, focused manner, working to solve problems and debate important issues. We are constantly searching for opportunities for our students to participate in high-level youth organizations based on their interests. For some, that means taking on leadership roles in NCSY or their local synagogues. For others, it is volunteering with charity groups such as the Rose Youth Foundation (general chesed) or the Shalom Task Force (domestic abuse awareness).

For a distinct cohort of our middle school students—those interested in history, government, and literature—the Truman Scholars Program allows them to connect with peers who share similar interests around free-thought-and-speech principles that they hold dear. We are grateful that our students have the opportunity to participate in an intellectually rigorous program like Truman Scholars.

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