“REDI Lab is just the beginning of a lifetime subscription to learning,” said Tom Thorpe, the Director of Colorado Academy’s REDI Lab program, as he spoke on March 3 to parents, faculty and staff members, and friends gathered to celebrate the opening of the REDI Lab Aimee and Jonathan Coleman Center in the Mariposa District of Denver. And that new space, Thorpe continued, is the beginning of the next evolution of CA’s signature program, opening up its mission to the wider world, where the innovative thinking and creativity that are the hallmarks of REDI Lab might flourish through authentic connection with community.
REDI Lab is a one-trimester “school-within-a-school” experience for high school juniors and seniors that inspires creativity, ingenuity, and success through highly personalized projects. REDI Lab (REDI stands for Research, Entrepreneurship, Design, and Inquiry) provides students with the space and time to explore what they’re curious about, using principles and concepts taken from industry and the business world to be reflective and practice skills necessary for success in a changing world.
“REDI Lab’s goal,” Thorpe said, “is to build value by elevating students’ passions and interests and providing a platform for sharing their ideas. The Coleman Center mirrors that ambition.”
Once housed in a borrowed classroom in CA’s Ponzio Arts Center, REDI Lab now flows through three interconnected spaces designed with great intention. In a large open area, students can collaborate around a long conference table or use expansive whiteboard walls to brainstorm and build community. In another space equipped with mobile desks and whiteboards and comfortable furniture, students do research, hold interviews with subject-matter experts, and further develop their ideas in small groups or on their own. Finally, in an amphitheater-like zone with tiered seating and a massive display, they refine their “pitches,” in which they share their vision and receive feedback from peers. Wraparound windows provide a view from any part of the Coleman Center onto the neighborhood’s bustling streets.
Fittingly, the Coleman Center sits at the intersection of innovation, creativity, and equitable growth and development that are reshaping Denver’s urban landscape. Named for a lead gift from CA parents Aimee and Jonathan Coleman, the new facility is the result of a partnership between CA and the Denver Housing Authority (DHA), whose redevelopment of the Mariposa District aims to bring together affordable housing, nonprofits, community groups, entrepreneurs, and the arts to support a vibrant, sustainable, transit-oriented community.
Situated steps from the 10th & Osage RTD Light Rail Station, the Coleman Center anchors the ground floor of DHA’s Mariposa property, which also houses 87 LEED-certified affordable housing units. The modern and highly functional interior of the leased space was designed by CA parent Martin Goldstein, co-founder and Principal Architect at Venture Architecture, which donated its services on the project.
Jonathan Coleman stood with Thorpe, Goldstein, DHA Director of Resident and Community Connections Annie Hancock, Head of School Dr. Mike Davis, and Board Chair Erika Hollis to cut a red ribbon and mark the official opening of the Center. Said Coleman, “We are incredibly fortunate to be part of the CA community and benefit from the REDI Lab program, but relatively few people in Denver have that opportunity. We have an obligation to expand the scope of what we are capable of and serve a much larger group of people.”
Davis noted that since its inception in 2016, 150 CA and non-CA students have gone through the REDI Lab program—including a summer academy which debuted in 2021—and that more than 100 teachers from the Denver Metro Area have taken advantage of professional development offered by UnlimitED, an outgrowth of REDI Lab that inspires innovation in education. “The new off-campus space allows REDI Lab students to take their ideas even further, and it will enable CA to make an even greater impact in the Denver area,” Davis said. Plans call for expanded professional development offerings for teachers, new college- and career-focused summer programs, and partnerships with community organizations. Financial aid will help more Denver residents take advantage of these opportunities than ever before.
“As the parent of a REDI Lab student, I’ve seen the dramatic impact this program can make,” Davis continued. “The kinds of questions and real-world problems students take on through REDI Lab are just inspiring; they grapple with everything from social justice to the future of technology and how we connect with each other as human beings. Stepping back from focusing on teaching content and letting students drive the process as they think about the world—it gives me a lot of hope that our graduates will go on to conquer the really tough challenges we’re facing today.”
REDI Lab, said Thorpe, celebrates students’ capacity for thinking and dreaming. “Here, we’re living a model of education where instead of doing just what’s asked of them, learners are spending their time imagining what’s possible and expanding their vision. They start seeing themselves in new ways.”
The Mariposa space, which was up and running for CA Seniors and Juniors for several months before the official opening, amplifies creativity and commitment, according to Thorpe. “We’ve seen students take their ideas—their passions and interests—more seriously because they have to leave campus to come here. Whether they travel by light rail or drive themselves, they notice that there’s a different pace from being on campus. They can step into the Coleman Center and let their ideas live and breathe and grow.”
Thorpe thanked many members of the CA community for their help in making the new facility a reality. He acknowledged the vision of his REDI Lab co-founder, former CA history teacher Paul Kim, and thanked the parents and grandparents of CA students who benefited from the program for their generous support of the Coleman Center. He called out CA parent Brady Welsh of Sherpa Commercial Real Estate as instrumental in locating the Mariposa space and facilitating the partnership with DHA, and he praised DHA staff for their support of REDI Lab’s mission.
Davis, for his part, expressed gratitude to MAX Construction for their work finishing the space, and he thanked DCP Midstream, whose director of engineering, CA parent Susi Lara-Mesa, secured the donation of nearly every piece of furniture. Davis also acknowledged the efforts of Director of Operations Jesse Schumacher, Director of Technology Jared Katzman, Chief Financial and Operating Officer Whitney Johnson, and Director of Campus Safety and Security Julia Shoun in seeing through the completion of the facility.
“Many more individuals helped to make the Coleman Center possible,” said Thorpe. “It wasn’t just an individual, a team, or even CA—it was all of us joining with the community that built this place.”
As guests at the ribbon cutting explored the facility and mingled with some Junior REDI Lab students who had been quietly working there throughout the opening event, Coleman said, “Seeing this space come to fruition, I’m left with this compelling feeling that a lot of these students are going to find their vocation in life as a result of the work that they do here, which I think is really cool.”