Salazar Family Foundation gives $10 million to build CU Denver campus wellness center - The Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center will be an 85,000-square-foot facility.

By TOM MCGHEE | | The Denver Post - December 11, 2017

The Salazar Family Foundation, which was formed by Rob and Lola Salazar, has given CU Denver a $10 million gift that will be used to establish the school’s first named building, the University of Colorado Denver announced.

Rob Salazar and Lola Salazar

The Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center will be an 85,000-square-foot facility with a climbing wall, gymnasium, six-lane pool, weight room and other amenities. It is expected to open next spring.

“The support and generosity of the Salazar family will have a lasting impact on the CU community and on our students in particular,” Bruce Benson, CU president said in a news release. “The Salazars have worked hard to achieve their own dreams so it’s wonderful to see how their passion for success matches that of our students.”

The Salazars, both of whom graduated from Denver public schools, later took turns finishing college to support a  growing family.

Rob Salazar opened his first accounting practice at age 26.

Later, he and others started Solomon Health Group, which operates nursing homes and medical centers. He left in 2000 to start his own company.

The couple created the foundation after achieving financial success in the late 1990s.

Since 2000, the Salazars have owned and operated Central Street Capital, Inc., a private investment management company.

“Through our gift and through our story, we hope to be role models for students on the CU Denver campus as people they can relate to achieving in life,” the couple said in the news release. Lola Salazar earned a master’s degree at the school.

“We want young people to see that they’re no different from us. If we can do it, it’s achievable.”

The Salazar Family Foundation supports organizations that are committed to improving the quality of education and students’ access to it.

The foundation has been a major contributor to The Denver Foundation, the Denver Public Schools Foundation, Jefferson Foundation, Latin American Educational Foundation and Escuela de Guadalupe.

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Lola and Rob Salazar

Lola and Rob Salazar

CU Denver celebrates first named building - Lola and Rob Salazar donate $10 million to student wellness center

There’s cause for gratitude this holiday season as CU Denver celebrates a $10 million gift and official name for its new landmark, the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center.

Denver philanthropists Lola and Rob Salazar have made a $10 million gift to guarantee a lasting legacy for the “space of our own” student leaders first envisioned in 2013. The gift makes the facility the first named building on campus, a milestone for the university.

The Salazars chose to invest in CU Denver in part because the student body reflects their belief in the power of hard work and determination to achieve success in life. Homegrown, self-made success stories, the Salazars attended Denver Public Schools — and, in Lola’s case, CU Denver for a master’s degree — and credit their modest Denver upbringing not only for their success, but also for implanting in them a commitment to pay it forward.

A Legacy of Giving
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but watching our parents work so hard to give us everything that we did have was inspiring.  Our parents were always stressing the value of education, about giving back, and about the importance of truly being kind,” said Lola. “We started the Salazar Family Foundation because we’ve been fortunate in our business success and because education has always been the number one priority for our family.”

“Our upbringing instilled in us the value to set goals, work hard, and ultimately to use the successes we achieve to help others from similar backgrounds,” said Rob. “We hope that when students see the wellness center and learn about our background, they can relate to our story and realize that they are no different from us. We’re hoping to set an example with what we’ve been able to achieve, and if we can do it, it’s achievable for them as well.”

The Salazars are also inspired by the center’s purpose – promoting student health and wellness and nurturing a sense of community and belonging on campus.

“You’ll notice that most of our grants have gone to organizations that helped us get to where we are today, and this grant is no different because our family has been a part of the CU System,” said Lola, who recalls that the campus felt like a supportive community when she was a student here. Lola served on the alumni association board of directors, and the couple’s two children attended CU.

Endowment for Future Expenses
Part of the gift, $2 million, will immediately fund construction costs to ensure that the center incorporates features to complete the vision of the original design conceptualized by the Student Wellness Center Oversight Committee, which was made up of university stakeholders and student leaders. The remaining $8 million establishes an endowment for the center’s future expenses, with a goal of keeping student fees at their current rate.

“On behalf of all of us at CU Denver, I want to thank the Salazars for their vision, their generosity, and their belief in the potential of our amazing students,” said CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell. “The Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center is proof that CU Denver students are fully equipped to turn their dreams into reality.”

Student-led Journey to Wellness
Four years ago, student government leaders, having identified a need for a greater sense of community on campus, asked university administration to evaluate the feasibility of a new student wellness center, to be funded by student fees.

“Building community on our campus was the number one charge when the idea for a wellness center was born,” said CU Denver alumnus and 2015-2016 president of Student Government Association (SGA), Scott Cao, who now attends CU Anschutz. “I am very thankful and very grateful that the Salazars see the positive impact to our campus and want to donate to our school.”

A feasibility study was conducted in fall 2014. In focus groups and surveys, students indicated a strong preference for a CU Denver-specific facility to promote health and wellness, provide a haven for students between classes, and offer fitness opportunities. They wanted the center to boost school spirit, foster connections and strengthen CU Denver’s identity.

In spring 2015, SGA prepared a student referendum to move forward with the center and engineered a “get out the vote” campaign. The Board of Regents approved the CU Denver Student Wellness Center in spring 2015, shortly after the student vote that drew a record-setting 20 percent turnout and a landslide 61 percent victory.  Construction has been underway ever since, and the campus community has gathered to celebrate the center’s groundbreaking and topping-off ceremony.

“I’m proud of the vision, determination and hard work that CU Denver students demonstrated throughout the process of making the wellness center a reality. They were able to drive record voter turnout and pass the initiative by an overwhelming majority by making a great case and doing the hard work to convey it to their fellow students,” said CU President Bruce Benson. “In my conversations with Lola and Rob, they were moved by the intensity of our students’ desire to make their campus a better place, and they were impressed with their ability to make it happen.”

Opening in spring 2018, the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center will be an 85,000-square-foot facility featuring a 36-foot climbing wall, three-court gymnasium, six-lane pool, weight room, fitness studios, reflection rooms and an outdoor adventure 

center. Designed to promote multiple dimensions of student health and wellness, the center offers programs and activities that address students’ social, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

“Students need to be well-rounded, and we want them to know that there is a home for them and a place on campus for all of their needs,” said Lola. “Making this donation is also inspiring me to live healthier and to embody wellness myself.”

Student fees cover the facility’s use by current CU Denver students. Memberships are also open to university faculty and staff as well as alumni and their sponsored guests.  Students who have paid the Student Wellness Center fee from spring 2015 to spring 2018 will have access to the facility for the number of semesters they paid the fee. One semester is equal to four months of facility access.

“My biggest takeaway from this project is that if you want change, it is possible as long as you engage everybody and you get the right people in the right place. Get the right people, get the community mobilized, and anything is possible. The wellness center is a testament to that statement,” said Cao.

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Mi Casa Resource Center Denver - Path to Prosperity

NBC LATINO 20 - September 2017

Lola Salazar President Salazar Family Foundation

Lola Salazar
Salazar Family Foundation

The #NBCLatino20 honors achievers who are making our communities and our nation better. These honorees are fiercely proud of their heritage, which has guided their work and inspired their accomplishments. Follow their fascinating stories throughout Hispanic Heritage Month.

THE PHILANTHROPIST: Many of us dream of being able to give back to the schools and neighborhoods where we grew up.  Lola Salazar is doing it. Through the Salazar Family Foundation, she and her husband are using their success to create opportunities for a new generation. “When I go to the schools and I see the kids, I actually see myself in a lot of their faces,” says Salazar. “I would have loved to have known at that time there were people out there who cared — about us wanting to fulfill our dreams." 

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Gift of $1.5 million is key component to new Mi Casa HQ - YourHub, 4/13/2017

DENVER (April 12, 2017) – Mi Casa Resource Center announced it has received a donation of $1.5 million from the Salazar Family Foundation that will allow Mi Casa to move its headquarters to Denver’s Westwood neighborhood this summer. The donation is part of a $4.1 million capital campaign, and Mi Casa will name its new headquarters “Salazar Center for Family Prosperity” in recognition of the family’s contribution.

Beginning in July 2017, Salazar Center for Family Prosperity will serve as the new headquarters location for Mi Casa Resource Center, relocating from Acoma Street in the Baker neighborhood. The new 20,000 square-foot space (housed on the first floor of a new building near the intersection of Federal Blvd. and Alameda Avenue.) will accommodate Mi Casa’s offices as well as training space for its programs, which include workforce development, entrepreneurial training, and youth development services.

“Mi Casa Resource Center is honored to name our new facility on behalf of the Salazar Family Foundation,” said Monique Lovato, CEO and executive director of Mi Casa Resource Center. “The Salazar Family story of perseverance and entrepreneurship will inspire the hard-working individuals who come to Mi Casa with dreams of owning their own business or reaching their career and educational goals.”

The Salazar Family Foundation, founded in 1999 by husband-and-wife Rob and Lola Salazar of Denver, is focused on supporting organizations that improve the quality of education for Denver residents. Understanding the value of career and entrepreneurial training as entrepreneurs themselves, the Family has been a generous supporter of Mi Casa Resource Center.

“We are grateful to have parents who instilled in us the value of education and hard work,” said Lola Salazar. “We value Mi Casa’s impact on assisting families to achieve their educational and economic goals.”

Rob and Lola Salazar are well-known in Denver as successful business owners and philanthropic leaders who are committed to giving back to their community to ensure others have opportunities to succeed.

“We are so proud to know we are helping our community,” Lola added. “We want families to believe they can succeed and they can make a difference, regardless of their challenges.”

Mi Casa Resource Center staff and the Board of Directors are excited about the organization’s move to Southwest Denver and the opportunities to work with residents and businesses there, said Lovato.

“We plan to build upon the cultural assets, leverage the entrepreneurial spirit, and help grow the area’s economy,” she said.

Lola Salazar grew up in Southwest Denver and attended Lincoln High School, not far from the location of the new Salazar Center for Family Prosperity.

“This is my old neighborhood,” she said. “This is where I began to pursue my goals and dreams. I am excited to see the redevelopment of Westwood and the impact it will have on families so they can achieve their goals as well.”

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Salazar Foundation and HUNI Support North Classrooms - North Denver Tribune, 1/7/2017

NORTH DENVER — 2016 provided the Highlands United Neighbors, Inc.  (HUNI) organization, and The Salazar Family Foundation an opportunity to partner in support of augmenting North High School’s January 2017 classroom educational requirements. 

The Salazar Family Foundation, founded in 1999 by Rob and Lola Salazar, has an established mission to encourage Denver-area students to achieve their educational goals. In partnership with HUNI, Denver North Facility/Administration, and North High School Alumni Association, the Salazar Family Foundation has provided additional educational opportunities through a significant financial commitment via a classroom grant.

The 2016 North High School Salazar Foundation Grant is focused in the areas of the Math, Science, English, Social Studies, Special Education, Music/Art, Physical Education and World Languages Departments. 

Rob Salazar, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, is the patriarch of the Salazar Family Foundation. Rob’s passion and commitment to supporting North High School can be traced to his North Denver historical roots. Rob is an Alumni of Bryant-Webster, Horace Mann Junior High, and North High School. Concurrently, Lola Salazar the focal point, lead and voice of the Family Foundation worked side by side with all the stakeholders to identify those grant areas where monies could be applied for an immediate educational impact. 

The Mission of HUNI, (a Lower Highlands Denver Registered Neighborhood Organization) is to facilitate consistent and responsible communication among Highland neighbors and the community at-large, to improve the quality of life for its residents, organizations, schools and businesses and to provide advocacy and promotion for our community.

Teaming with the Salazar Family Foundation, North High School, and the North High School Alumni Association, HUNI is proud to have helped deliver on a portion of their 2016 mission thanks to the financial generosity of the Salazar Family Foundation. 

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Latino Leadership inducts 6 into new Hall of Fame - The Denver Post, 11/3/2016

The Latino Leadership Institute at the University of Denver was formed in 2013 to engage and empower the next generation of leaders. Now it has expanded its reach by establishing a Hall of Fame to honor those who have paved the way.

Six distinguished members of the community — five living and one deceased — are the first members, having been inducted at a gala chaired by Timothy Marquez and Dr. Dean Prina and held on the United Club Level at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Marquez, who with his wife, Bernadette, founded the Denver Scholarship Foundation, is chairman of the Latino Leadership Institute board. Prina is a Denver pediatrician.

The need for a Colorado Latino Hall of Fame, Marquez said, became apparent because it is important for emerging leaders to be familiar with the accomplishments of “Those who hold a memorable place in Colorado history.”

People like 86-year-old inductee Joe Vigil, recipient of the Arts, Entertainment, Media and Sports Award.

An Eagle Scout raised by a single mother, this “Optimistic boy from the San Luis Valley” has spent seven decades coaching track, first at Alamosa High School and then at Adams State College. During that time, he would coach 425 All-Americans and help his teams win 87 individual titles — 20 of which were world medals in cross country. Vigil is perhaps best known for working with Deena Kastor, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist; Brenda Martinez, one of two Latinas on the U.S. track and field team for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the late Ryan Shay, the NCAA Division 1 national champion in 2001.

Other inductees are Mission Yogurt CEO Rod Tafoya (Business, Innovation, Science and Technology); the Salazar Family Foundation (Community Service and Philanthropy); Federico Pen~a (Public Service); Susana Cordova (Unsung Hero) and the late Casimiro Barela (Legacy). Tafoya’s restaurant empire includes Que Bueno, Timberline Steaks and Grille, Einstein Bros Bagels and the Mission Yogurt sandwich and yogurt shop, all at Denver International Airport.

Rob and Lola Salazar’s family foundation, with $25 million in assets, was formed in 1999 to award the scholarships, classroom grants and fund literacy programs necessary to help children from low-income families achieve their educational dreams.  Recipients include the Denver Scholarship Foundation, Escuela de Guadalupe, the Jefferson Foundation, Mi Casa Resource Center, the University of Northern Colorado and the Latin American Educational Foundation.

Federico Pena was a civil rights attorney when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. He went on to become Denver’s Mayor and then serve as Secretary of the Departments of Transportation and Energy under President Bill Clinton. Today he is a senior adviser to the Colorado Impact Fund and Vestar Capital Partners.

Susana Cordova is a Denver native who has spent four decades as a Denver Public Schools teacher and administrator. She started as a middle school bilingual teacher, then went on to become a high school English teacher, elementary school principal and the district’s literacy director. Today she is the DPS’ deputy superintendent.

Casimiro Barela, who died in 1920, is remembered as a successful businessman, deft politician and bridge-builder.

He was just 22 when he was elected justice of the peace in Las Animas County. A year later he was named county assessor and then was elected to the Territorial Legislature in 1871. His portrait is one of 16 hanging in the state capitol dome.

The Hall of Fame Gala was emceed by 9News forecaster Belen De Leon and Ryan Spilborghs, a former outfielder for the Colorado Rockies now working as a broadcaster for Root Sports Rocky Mountain.

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Rob and Lola Salazar bolster UNC's newest innovation for student success, increasing total giving to $5.5 million for new Campus Commons, 2016

Rob and Lola Salazar dedicated a founding gift toward the completion of the University of Northern Colorado's newest facility, Campus Commons.

The gift of $500,000 comes through the Salazar Family Foundation, a Denver-based foundation with the mission of encouraging area students to achieve their educational goals. About 82 percent of UNC's undergraduates are Colorado residents.

UNC's mission with Campus Commons is to foster connections by providing a gateway to campus for everyone, a unique navigation and support hub that will offer individualized attention for students, and a showcase for UNC's world-class music and musical theatre programs.

The Salazar family has been a UNC supporter for several years—the Salazar Family Foundation established a scholarship to support UNC's first-generation students and student-athletes, and has been involved with various athletics initiatives.

About 34 percent of UNC students are first generation - the first in their families to attend college.

"Campus Commons will echo the mission of the Salazar Family Foundation by creating opportunities for each and every student to discover and live up to his or her potential," UNC President Kay Norton said. "Our top priority at UNC is student success and Campus Commons will bring that to life."

The innovative facility on UNC's main campus will break ground in the fall and is expected to be complete in two years. The university has committed to raising $12 million toward the $73.6 million project. In addition to $38 million in state funding and gifts, bonds backed by student fees will finance the building.

"We could not do this without the support of our donors," said UNC Board of Trustees Chair Dick Monfort. "We are excited to be a part of the Salazar's mission to ensure the best education possible for every student."

The Salazars also developed the award-winning student-housing complex near campus, University Flats, through their investment company, Central Street Capital, Inc.

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Rob and Lola hit a home run for Athletics and Education, 2014

Schools celebrate $1 million reading grant, 9 News, 2012

Salazars emphasize education, La Voz Bilingue, 2011
Lola and Rob Salazar grew up in Denver, Lola in the Southwest and Rob in the Northwest. Although in different neighborhoods, the two were high school sweethearts and after graduating proudly from DPS schools, were married. The Salazars coin their parents as large influences in their lives. “We were grateful to have parents who instilled education and hard work in us. We always knew education was a priority and something we needed to pursue.”

After both received their degrees, a young Lola Salazar began her teaching career in Jefferson County Schools where she taught for 10 years before deciding to stay home with her two children. “I truly believed I was making a difference in the young lives I taught,” she said.

Rob Salazar saw business in his future. Starting his career as a certified public accountant, he went on to form his own CPA and consulting firm at the impressive age of 26. Receiving national recognition for his specialization in the healthcare industry, he is still at it today as part of Central Street Capital, Inc. where he and his two children, Isiah and Angelique, manage investments such as student housing, food service, retail, commercial and industrial real estate, healthcare and more.

It was their success in business and education that allowed for the Salazars to combine their work. It was after the tragedy of Columbine High School in 1999 on that dark April day when the Salazars both impassioned about education, knew they needed to do something. “We started the Salazar Family Foundation. Our first project was to give money to The Jefferson Foundation to assist with conflict mediation and literacy throughout Jefferson County,” they shared.

The 501 (c) (3) is in its 12th year of “impacting the lifelong learning of students.” The foundation doesn’t provide scholarships directly to students but rather supports a wider range of students by supporting nonprofit organizations that provide funding to students and schools in need. Over the years the Salazars have funded many programs with The Denver Public School Foundation, The Jefferson Foundation, Latin American Educational Foundation and Escuela De Guadalupe. The organizations supported use grants from the Salazar Family Foundation for things such as summer reading programs, books, safe playground equipment, bilingual learning resources, scholarships, computer labs and more.

Lola Salazar who attended Schenck Elementary, Kepner Junior High and Abraham Lincoln High School and Rob Salazar who attended Bryant-Webster Elementary, Horace Mann Junior High and North High School could not be happier being able to give back to where they came from. “We are so proud to know we are helping the six schools we attended in DPS. We want all students to believe they can succeed and they can make a difference.”

Today in Schenck Elementary sits a computer lab with Lola Salazar’s name on it. The “Lola Lit Lab” was dedicated to Salazar in honor of the alumnus’ selfless donations and serves as a reminder for students to thrive on a daily basis.

Today she still finds time to pursue other passions in her life. Nicknamed “Sugar” by her parents because of her love of candy as a child, Salazar decided it was time to remember the sweet, simple pleasures of life. She says on her website, “Over the years, my passion for candy and all things sweet have only increased. So after a career in education, and raising a beautiful family, I finally found the time to realize my sweet childhood dream of owning a whimsical old-fashioned candy shop, elegantly decorated and loaded with nostalgic candy, candy bars, hard candies, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cupcakes and gourmet desserts.” She looks forward to seeing adults take in the memories of their childhood and innocence of their youth.

From business to education to delectable candy delights, the Salazars have set an example for all within their community and beyond.

Gift Enables Dual-Language School to Double its Library

Salazar Family Foundation is Featured as a Donor, DPS Annual Report 2010

The Sol Trujillo National Lifetime Leadership awarded presented by the Latin American Educational Foundation, 2005

Crystal Globe for Distinguished Service, presented by the Jefferson Foundation, 2005

Distinguished Service Award, presented by La Raza, 2006

¡Scouting…Vale La Pena! Service Award, presented by Boy Scouts of America, 2007

Hispanic Hero of Our Community, presented by The Colorado Rapids Soccer Club, 2007