Growing Ute Futures

Learn about the creation of Kwiyagat Community Academy and the history behind why and how it came to be.


The Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council has envisioned an education initiative that creates a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics curriculum that is also embedded with Ute arts, language, culture, and traditions. Since 2020, Keystone Policy Center has been working with Ute Mountain Ute leaders to make that vision a reality. This long-term initiative, known as Growing Ute Futures, creates a comprehensive educational master plan that integrates Ute arts, language, and culture into all levels of the education curriculum; provides a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, (Native) arts, and math; and offers wrap-around services to support youth and families on and off the reservation.

“Keystone Policy Center has been a valuable partner assisting the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in developing and implementing this cultural, life-long educational approach for our community,” said Manuel Heart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council. “We are grateful for the expertise and experience they have brought to this initiative.”

RISE Grant

In January 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Governor Polis announced that the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe would receive a grant from the Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Fund to support the Growing Ute Futures initiative.

“This pandemic has forced us to face unimaginable challenges. What we do with our schools not only impacts our students today but shapes the future of our state for future generations. We also know the pandemic doesn’t affect students equally,” said Polis during the announcement.

The RISE Education fund was launched in Sep. 2020 to support high-needs school districts, charter schools, and public institutions of higher education to address the learning challenges related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19 in a manner that creates sustainable innovations that improve student learning, close equity gaps, and enhance operational efficiency for pre-K-12 through higher education. Specific areas of focus include providing new student-focused models of learning, dramatically rethinking the student experience for higher education, strengthening and formalizing linkages between P-12, higher education, and industry, and catalyzing innovations that can drive long-term impact after the life of the grant.

Kwiyagat Community Academy

With the RISE grant in place, Keystone Policy Center shifted from planning and development to implementation at the direction of the Tribal Council. IN the Fall of 2021, Keystone joined with the Ute Mountain Ute leaders to host a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the Kwiyagat Community Academy (KCA). The event featured several Ute Mountain Ute education leaders, Tribal Council members, and elders participating in the program. The Kwiyagat Community Academy, the first school located on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation, opened with 27 students enrolled in kindergarten and first grade. The school is a key component of Growing Ute Futures and is already making an impact within the community.

RISE grant funding for Growing Ute Futures expired in 2023 but the program has built in further development and expansion of the initiative. KCA aims to add one grade each year of approximately 15-20 students per grade over the next five years until the school enrolls 90-120 students in grades K-5. Tutoring, secondary school transitions, and language preservation programs are set to continue as additional partners and funding become available.

Growing Ute Futures Featured on the Keynotes Podcast