Colorado student to meet First Lady Michelle Obama at college signing event

A member of the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation is being honored in New York City on Tuesday.

Dulce Cabrera was chosen to attend Michelle Obama’s college signing event in the city. The Montbello High School senior has been accepted into the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Although she doesn’t know exactly what she wants to major in, she says she loves political science.

Cabrera says she owes it to the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation.

“They took us on tours of colleges and really helped us,” Cabrera said. “I wouldn’t have gotten these opportunities without them.”

Since 1988, the organization has been mentoring children in Denver’s metro area. Students from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods might not otherwise get the support they need to succeed in school. Cabrera not only has a 3.5 GPA but she’s an honor platoon commander for her schools ROTC program.

“I am a leader in the program because of how I do in school,” Cabrera said.

Being chosen to attend the First Lady’s college signing event came as a shock to Cabrera, who says she hasn’t even started packing yet.

“It’s just kind of surreal to be invited to New York City,” she said. “I didn’t think it would ever happen to me.”

This is the third year Michelle Obama is hosting the college signing event. It’s meant to celebrate those who want to further their education. Cabrera says she hopes she can do well and be a role model for future generations.

“Once I graduate hopefully I’ll be able to come back and teach the new dreamers,” she said.

University of Colorado earning money from online offerings

The University of Colorado is starting to earn money from the massive open online courses it offers on the website Coursera.

The Daily Camera reports that the courses, known as MOOCs, are free, but some students have begun to pay for certificates showing they’ve competed a course or a multi-course unit in a particular subject.

CU Associate Vice President Deborah Keyek-Franssen says the certificates have generated about $110,000 for CU since September. She expects that number to go up this spring, when new multi-course units will be launched.

Keyek-Franssen says CU didn’t necessarily expect to make money from the courses, which also have the potential to introduce millions of people to CU. But she estimates that the school could generate $250,000 a year from its offerings on Coursera.

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Strong job outlook for college graduates

Good news for college students about to graduate: businesses plan to offer more jobs with bigger salaries to applicants with a four-year degree.

The national survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder surveyed 2,186 hiring managers and human resource professionals. It shows the hiring outlook is the highest it’s been in nearly a decade.

Sixty-seven percent of employers said they plan to hire recent college graduates this year, up from 65 percent. Thirty-seven percent plan to offer higher pay.

Getting into the job market right after college is tough but the improving economy means more opportunity for new graduates.

“It makes me feel like when I graduate I’m going to be set up for a successful future,” said Ariana Nikmanesh, a college student at Metro State University Denver.

Businesses plan to boost hiring and pay over last year but in Colorado getting the job can be just as difficult as in years past.

“It’s still competitive. Even though there are more opportunities it’s still competitive because we have a lot of graduates in the state of Colorado and we have a lot of experienced folks who want to live in the state of Colorado that they often compete with for those jobs,” said Bridgette Coble, director of career services at MSU Denver.

Coble said although competitive, the job market is on an upswing. This year, MSU Denver had five job fairs with waiting lists for the employers looking to recruit students.

“I think it still depends on what field it is,” said returning student Jason Hodge. “You’ve got to get a degree that really means something.”

The businesses in the poll listed their top three majors for new employees. Leading the list are business, computer and information sciences, and engineering degrees.

Coble reminds students just because you’re in the top three majors that employers want, doesn’t automatically mean success.

“It’s more than just having the college degree. Students to need to have experience along the way to help them compete for those jobs,” she said.

In order to be competitive, graduates need internships, volunteer work and part-time jobs that show employers you’ll be a well-rounded employee ready for the real world.

“It makes me more excited to finish up my years in college. It helps me remember that what I’m doing in college is definitely going to impact my future,” said college freshman Brandon Murphy.

Most In-Demand College Majors According To Polled Employers:

Business – 35 percent
Computer and Information Sciences – 23 percent
Engineering – 18 percent
Math and Statistics – 15 percent
Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences – 14 percent
Communications Technologies – 11 percent
Engineering Technologies – 11 percent
Communication and Journalism – 8 percent
Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities – 7 percent
Science Technologies – 7 percent
Social Sciences – 6 percent
Biological and Biomedical Sciences – 6 percent
Architecture and Planning – 6 percent
Education – 5 percent

Information technology (27 percent) and customer service jobs (26 percent) top the list of position types for which employers hiring recent college grads are recruiting. Opportunities also abound in finance/accounting (19 percent), business development (19 percent) and sales (17 percent).

Denver Christian Schools changing from Crusaders

For 65 years of their 100 year history, Denver Christian Schools has been known as the Crusaders. Later this year, that will change.

School leaders say many in the community have expressed concerns about the mascot and its ties to the Crusades, a series of wars between Christians and Muslims.

“In our mission, in light of the command to love our neighbors as ourselves, the crusader was an inconsistent, inappropriate symbol for that mission,” school CEO Todd Lanting said.

So in November, the school asked members of its community, including students, parents and alumni for ideas for a new name for a mascot.

They’ve narrowed the list down to two: Thunder and Trailblazers. The final votes from the community are being tallied and the school will announce its new name soon.

Critics say the long tradition of the name should be enough to keep it around.

They have formed a Facebook group with more than 300 members. They claim the school did not give them a voice in the name change.

They also say there is nothing wrong with the name Crusader, as it has been part of the school’s history for 65 years.

“This has nothing to do with political correctness,” Lanting said. “It’s got everything to do with love and empathy for our neighbors.”


Gap years becoming increasingly popular

The announcement that President Barack Obama’s eldest daughter will be taking a gap year before attending Harvard highlights a growing trend in the U.S.

More students are electing to take a year off before pursuing a college education.

Dawn Taylor Owens with College in Colorado says when considering taking a year off, it’s important remember not all gap years are created equal. Some gap years can be a benefit to certain students while others can hurt.

“You don’t want it being a detriment to your educational future,” she said.

Owens says in many cases students taking gap years do so to travel or work on special interests like Habitat for Humanity or the Peace Corps, activities which can often look good on a resume. However, she stresses the need for “Gappers” to create a plan for returning to school, as often times spending a year away can reduce the chance of a student attending college at all.

However, Mark Potter with Metro State University says some students take a gap year not because they want to, but because they have to.

“Some students, if they are taking off time between high school and college, they’re doing so to work, to save money, to provide for their families, they’re not calling that a gap year, they’re calling that survival,” he said.

Some schools will hold offers of admission and scholarships for students who want a gap year but others won’t, so both our experts agree talking with a counselor should always be the first move.

“Every student is going to have their own pathway from high school into college. For some students like Malia Obama, that may be the gap year. For others, it may be coming directly to college and taking advantage of the supports that are offered,” Potter said.

According to the American Gap Association, which tracks and provides resources for students considering a gap year, there has been a 23-percent growth in enrollment for gap-year programs in the past year.

You can find more information on their website:

DPS appoints new board member

Denver Schools announced who will replace a board member who stepped down last month after it was revealed she has a criminal history.

Rachele Espiritu, a mother of two DPS students, will represent northeast Denver, the board said Monday night.

She earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from CU-Boulder and is the founding partner of Change Matrix LLC.

More than 20 candidates applied for the school board position, which board president Anne Rowe was tasked with filling.

Espiritu will be sworn in on May 12.

The previous appointee, MiDian Holmes, decided not accept the position after previous convictions for child abuse a decade ago came to light.


School district tells black 9-year-old to change her hair

TEXAS – A mother is recommending administrators in a Texas school district undergo diversity training, after they told her 9-year-old daughter her hair was unacceptable.

Marian Reed said an assistant principal at Tarver Elementary School in Belton, Texas pulled her third grade child out of physical education class and called home because her hair was not in compliance with the school dress code.

“She cried and said no one was going to want to be her friend because her hair was not as pretty as the assistant principal’s,” Reed said. “And, as a parent, that’s heartbreaking because that’s just what God naturally gave her.”

Like many young black girls, Marian said her daughter’s hair does not lie flat. So, she put her daughter’s hair in small pony tails – sometimes known as ‘afro puffs.’ No part of the hair was shaved or dyed. But, school officials claimed the pony tails resembled a fauxhawk – a hairstyle similar to a mohawk. Both hairstyles are prohibited by the elementary school dress code.

“It wasn’t in a mohawk,” Reed said, “It’s not shaved on the side or anything. She was a little girl being 9 years old.”

Reed believes the school’s decision to reprimand her daughter was discriminatory because she said school officials took no issue when her daughter wore the same style – just with longer, synthetic braids instead of her natural hair.

“I don’t believe that it was intended to be racial,” Reed said. “But, I think, the district as a whole may need some cultural diversity training.”

Reed said she wished district leaders would have spoken solely with her about the dress-code violation, instead of making her daughter feel her hair was wrong.

“They could have called me and discussed it with me without pulling her out of class and without having that conversation in front of her because now she’s questioning her natural image.” Reed said. “And, at nine years old, she’s going to remember that for the rest of her life.”

Before posting her daughter’s experience to Facebook, Reed contacted the district office and spoke with Charla Trejo, the executive director of campus leadership. In an interview Monday, Trejo told KCEN the district was just enforcing the dress code and being consistent.

“We had an assistant principal call a parent and make them aware of the dress code issue,” Trejo said. “And then just try to resolve that by asking them to take care of that.”

Reed said she wants the district to admit there is a problem and take corrective action, including having diversity training, to prevent future incidents.

“Do we need training? We are always willing to train and to learn and do things,” Trejo said. “However, this particular situation was about consistency. It was about making sure we have the same expectations for everyone.”

DPS to make announcement on school board vacancy

Denver Board of Education President Anne Rowe is expected to announce Monday her selection for the board member representing Northeast Denver.

This comes after MiDian Holmes, who was appointed to the board, stepped down after it was learned that she has been convicted of child abuse.

Rowe’s announcement is scheduled for the beginning of the 5 p.m. board meeting with the Student Board of Education, which will take place in the “14er” on the Emily Griffith Campus, located at 1860 Lincoln St.

The announcement will be streamed on Facebook and for those who cannot attend.

Record breaking year at Totally Tennyson

Despite some slushy snow and frigid weather, hundreds came out to Totally Tennyson on Saturday to munch on some street food, check out local shops and raise money for 18 northwest Denver public schools.

“Totally Tennyson is about taking small businesses and supporting schools and have your neighborhood come out all together on one night to celebrate what was the 80s but now we’ve expanded to 70s, 80s and 90s,” local organizer Lauren Wolf said. “All the ticket proceeds go to 18 schools from Denver Public Schools that are all located within what we consider the northwest Denver boundary and that’s elementary, middle school through high school. 100 percent of ticket sales go there.”

From Gene Simmons to other classic movie and television characters, folks dressed up and raised a new record in the process.

“So this year we should break our record from last year — it was $62,000 — and I think we’re going to exceed that any minute because people, even with the weather, they’re still buying tickets,” Wolf said. “We sold so many tickets this week regardless of the rain, snow and everybody just really loves this night and nothing’s going to keep them away.”

A group of teachers from a nearby school said they were grateful.

“At Trevista at Horace Mann, we have a 97 percent free and reduced lunch rate,” one teacher said, “so all the money we do earn for Trevista really comes in handy and it’s just a great cause to support.”

This year was the event’s sixth anniversary.

Hands-on learning at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest

If you want to see where education is going, take a stroll through the exhibit hall at the Boulder County Fairgrounds during Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest.

“Every single thing here has a hands-on experience, something you can do, and touch and feel,” said Martha Lanaghen, Executive Director of Maker Bolder, the organization behind the event.

From robots and drones to stained glass art projects, STEAM Fest gave kids the ultimate hands-on learning experience Saturday morning at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.

“When you set a child loose on something, they can experience at their own pace and visit what they really care about,” Lanaghen said. “Their eyes light up.”

Krista Torvik’s kids’ eyes lit up watching a small, humanoid robot raise its arms, sit down and kick a ball on command.

“I think education has changed a ton since I was a kid,” Torvik said. “I mean, we didn’t really know anything about coding and robots.”

Along with the science and tech, art was also on display inside the exhibit hall. Several kids and adults stopped by Judy Batty’s exhibit where they were able to build a stained glass mosaic, piece by piece.

“I’m a stained glass artist, so I have five gallon buckets of scrap glass always,” Batty said.

STEAM Fest celebrates all thinks science, technology, arts and making. Batty believes the “arts” component is crucial.

“It’s the glue that holds everything else together,” she explained. “Engineers have a way of thinking, but somethings, when they add the art component, it becomes that much more exciting,” Batty said.

STEAM Fest organizers expected to draw more than 5,000 kids, parents and teachers over the weekend. The event continues Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and lasts until 5:00 p.m.