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.”

Still0425_00034_1461641784128_1921724_ver1.0

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: http://www.americangap.org

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.

rachele.espiritu.photo_1462243062655_2064570_ver1.0

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 DPS.tv 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.

My Brother’s Keeper Summit aims to empower youth

A summit was held in Denver Saturday that aims to ensure boys and young men of color have opportunities to improve their lives and overcome barriers that prevent success.

Mayor Michael Hancock hosted the My Brother’s Keeper 2016 Summit Saturday at the Community College of Denver.

During the summit, young men participated in workshops, discovered employment opportunities and had the opportunity to ask questions about issues and challenges they are facing.

Focus areas included education, workforce development, juvenile justice and social and emotional health.

There was a meet-and-greet with Mayor Hancock, as well as group sessions on understanding stress and trauma, building skills for youth employers and how to build stronger relationships.

Youth participants could attend a Youth Job Fair hosted by the Denver Office of Economic Development and “LinkedIn Lounge,” which taught participants about utilizing social media as an employment tool.

The keynote speaker of the summit was former industrial engineer turned media mogul, Mike Muse. Muse created Muse Recordings, which represents brands like the NFL, NBA, McDonalds, Starbucks and Chrysler. In addition to running Muse Recordings, Muse offers political and pop culture expertise and commentary on national networks including VH1, BET, NBC and ARISE.

The first My Brother’s Keeper summit was held in 2015.

An action plan was developed and since then, 35 youth were given summer employment opportunities and were assigned mentors of color. A partnership was established with LinkedIn to engage boys of color in professional networking opportunities. The Office of Independent Monitor has joined MBK efforts to strengthen relationships between youth and the Denver Police Department and to keep youth engaged in safe activities through the summer. In 2015, the inaugural MBK25 was launched, which honors 25 individuals and organizations who are working to encourage young men of color to overcome obstacles.

Students celebrate ‘Day Without Hate’ through music

“Daddy Bruce” Randolph was a giant in the barbeque business and known to many as a community leader who gave back. Now, students want to do the same with a concert.

The Bruce Randolph School hosts the El Sistema Music program, a nonprofit organization helping kids of all backgrounds get involved with the arts. Students at Bruce Randolph held a concert for their classmates and featured music from different cultures to celebrate “A Day without Hate”.

Music teacher Hollie Bennett says teaching self-confidence, teamwork and responsibility is what this program is all about.

“I don’t think many of my students get a chance to be very proud of themselves very often or they don‘t give themselves the credibility they deserve and so I just hope they walk away today proud.” Bennett said.

Eighth grade trumpet player C’Aundria Burgess was excited to play in front of her school and hopes to inspire others.

“Hopefully other kids will want to come to Bruce and get in this music program or even come after school for the music program,” Burgess said.

Bennett says “Daddy” Bruce’s unconditional love is reflected in the student’s message of peace through music.

National Bike to School Day is Wednesday

Thousands of students across Colorado will participate in National Bike to School Day on Wednesday.

Nearly 100 schools across the state and more than 1,800 schools around the country will participate in the yearly event.

“This year’s participation in Bike to School Day is as exciting as ever,” Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Safe Routes to School Program Manager Leslie Feuerborn said in a press release.  “The excitement and support for events across Colorado from Durango to Idalia and from DeBeque to Campo and all along the Front Range is inspiring, and we couldn’t be more pleased with how many communities and families are coming together to promote safe biking to school on this one day.”

Bike to School Day events raise awareness of the necessity to create safer routes for bicycling and walking. They are also structured to build connections between families, schools and the community.

An emphasis on the importance of physical activity among children, the need to enhance pedestrian safety and increase environmental awareness are also highlights.

The Colorado Department of Transportation says events like Bike to School Day encourage communities to implement policy or engineering changes that make it safer to walk and bike to school. In 2015, CDOT says nearly 70 percent of event organizers indicated that their events led to planned or already completed policy or engineering changes.

May is also National Bike Month.

As more people start to ride bikes as the weather warms up, drivers are encouraged to be more cautious.

For more information on Bike to School Day, visit: http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/.

Learn more about the National Center for Safe Routes to School here: http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/.