Mario Rodriguez, better known as DJ Chonz, has been a staple of Denver’s hip-hop scene for years and has provided support for a ton of Denver kids, but now he’s ready to expand his vision with Thursday’s launch of the DJ Chonz Foundation.
He says he’s always had a heart for giving opportunities to kids. In fact, over a 4-year span, Chonz said he’s donated his own money, totaling $8,650, to six students, helping them make their way through the music program at CU Denver.
But he believes the foundation will allow him to receive additional support from other interested parties and boost his vision.
“I’m trying to help others have a good life, dude, really just be successful in whatever they dream they can do. Sometimes kids feel like they can’t accomplish something and hopefully I can be a source to say that you can,” Chonz said.
The foundation will provide scholarships and an opportunity to attend his DJ school, while also partnering with other organizations that are in line with his vision to improve the lives of young people in Denver.
“Everyone needs opportunity, everywhere,” he said. “You could be going to school in Parker where there’s a very good school system but maybe you’re the oddball over there, maybe they’re not touching your heartstring at all.
“It’s whoever may be interested in something, people in the projects and in the inner city of course.”
The official launch party for the program took place last week as Chonz brought out a host of prominent DJs to help him usher in his latest endeavor.
Chonz has come a long way from borrowing his brother’s DJ equipment and spinning Wu-Tang records at the VFW of on Pecos near the Quigg Newton projects in the early ‘90s. He believes much of his success is due to the assistance of the Northside neighborhood that raised and supported him during the early years of his career and he wants to continue to do his part to reciprocate that support.
Some of the organizations he will work with include Youth on Record and SOS Outreach.
SOS is an organization helps kids who are trapped in the city environment connect with the outdoors and see what opportunities are outside of the city limits. Chonz said that many kids from his neighborhood can count on one hand the number of times they have been to the mountains, and he feels like he can help change that reality.
Andrea Viarrial-Murphy, Director of Visibility and Operations for Youth on Record, says partnering with Chonz’s foundation can assist their work on multiple levels. Not only can he serve as a music ambassador, bringing additional attention to the program — he can also benefit their flagship fellowship program.
That fellowship program works with young adults from the ages of 18 to 24 and places them in an intensive seminar where they plan what their next steps in life will be and how to they will accomplish them. If they graduate from the program, they are given a stipend to pursue those aspirations.
“We’re not working with young people that have family members that work at banks and Galvanize; they don’t have those resources that a lot of other people have. Their uncle doesn’t work at the radio station,” said Viarrial-Murphy. “They need to have a competitive advantage like anybody else that’s coming out of high school or college.”
She also likes the fact that Chonz is helping reshape the face of what philanthropy can look like in the Denver area, especially as a young man of color who comes from the creative world of hip-hop. Chonz says working with organizations like these will facilitate him having the type of impact he desires as he transitions out of Denver’s nightclub scene.
“This is the first year I didn’t give a scholarship to CU Denver because I was focused on creating this foundation to diversify the people that I work with,” Chonz said.
He says he hopes people can utilize the “Rolodex of the DJ Chonz Foundation.”
“‘Maybe he has something he can help my son or daughter with to get them on the right track.’ Hopefully, I can be that outlet,” he said.