Fall | Issue 3 | Date: October 28, 2020 
Funding Great Schools. Rooted in Community. 
Community Takes the Lead and Succeeds
This year has seen the formation of the P.E.A.C.E. Collective, a new coalition committed to building the social, political and cultural power of leaders of color with the mission of building a school system where all children thrive and achieve a high quality education. The P.E.A.C.E Collective seeks to dismantle racist structures in public education, establishing diversity as a foundation and equity as the operating philosophy.

Still in formation, the group’s members include individuals and organizations led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) including TeRay Esquibel from RootED, Vernon Jones Jr. and Dom Barrera from FaithBridge, Felipe Vieyra from Lyra, Nicholas Martinez from Transform Education Now (TEN) and Dr. Janiece Mackey and Gabriella Carrethers from Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA).  

Spearheaded by YAASPA’s Gabriella Carrethers, the Collective is a safe place for members to support one another and see their talents flourish. The P.E.A.C.E. Collective is currently focused on ensuring community voice is centered in critical initiatives the Denver Public Schools (DPS) will execute in the coming months. These include planning for students’ safe return to school during the COVID 19 pandemic, development of the Denver 2030 plan (the DPS strategic plan to close academic achievement gaps and prepare all students for success in college and careers) and the development of a new dashboard to provide the types of information that will make it easier for families to navigate schools and support their kids' success.

The Collective states, “Our lived experiences are absolutely essential in creating policies and systems that work properly for those who have been traditionally marginalized and historically disenfranchised...If we continue to limit the voices of those in the room to performative roles and to bring people to decision making tables who are not reflective of our population then we will continue to fall short of real progress.”
Equitable Innovation Ensures Excellence
The Northeast Denver Innovation Zone Welcomes Vernon Jones Jr.
The Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ) selected veteran education and community leader Vernon Jones Jr. as its Executive Director. Jones began his new role earlier this month and said, “I believe in the power of NDIZ to be a leader in equitable innovation that ensures an excellent education for every child.”

NDIZ, which currently consists of six DPS schools serving more than 3,500 students and their families, pursued innovation status for necessary autonomies and has come together to think outside-of-the-box and deliver high-impact strategies based on close relationships with students and families. Jones said he is especially eager to ensure that all students get the proper support for success that is often thwarted by obstacles such as race or socio-economic status. 

NDIZ Board Chair Jennifer Troy said Jones rose above a field of highly qualified candidates because of his record of working tirelessly on behalf of all students, particularly those who have traditionally been denied a high quality education. “Vernon has helped so many kids get what they need to succeed in schools and community organizations,’’ Troy said. “We are thrilled to have someone with Vernon’s passion, commitment and energy to lead our Zone to a higher level of success.”
Education Innovation Fund Battles Learning Loss
Joy as Resistance Founder Bre Donnelly and Intern Aveeon Davis pictured above.
Last spring RootED joined a coalition of partners to create the COVID-19 Education Innovation Fund. The aim of the fund is to promote resiliency and to stimulate new approaches to meeting learners' needs during the disruption caused by the pandemic. Grantee Joy as Resistance supports the mental health and wellness of Colorado LGBTQIA+ youth and their families. Their award will support suicide prevention training, and a mobile mental health clinic scheduled to launch next year. Joy is focused on providing individual and group supports, wellness services including sex education and financial literacy, and partnerships with schools.
Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization - Isaura Ibarra and Jadyn Nguyen pictured above.
Colorado State University freshman Isaura Ibarra, a graduate of Northfield High, received a grant to improve college access for students in Montbello. Ibarra and colleague Jadyn Nguyen conduct workshops for students on how to submit strong college and scholarship applications. Members of the Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization (YEBO), the two discuss pathways to the future in a recent podcast episode called “The College Monster”.

Heart & Hand is providing in-person programming for Northeast Denver elementary and middle school youth during the fall semester. The loss of connection to trusted adults is a safety and health issue for youth who have experienced trauma and who may be retraumatized due to COVID-19. Heart and Hand seeks to ensure that its students are academically engaged and receive additional support throughout the school year to combat learning loss.
We Hear You!
YAASPA Students Opine on Civic Engagement
Ahead of our local, state and national elections, we asked students at Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA) why they care about civic engagement and policy.

Here is a sampling of their responses:

“I chose to engage with YAASPA because it’s an opportunity for youth like myself to speak up for their community and be involved in change. Not only do we get the opportunity to share our voice, but we get the opportunity to find ourselves.” - Itzel Pacheco

“I care about civic engagement because it is a way to change things that I don’t like in my community. I wouldn’t feel genuine if I complain about things that I don’t like about the community, but don’t do anything to change it. - Jessica Aggrey

“I care about civic engagement because I feel that as an African American my strongest weapon is my voice and I want to be able to make changes in today’s society.” - Jennifer Aggrey
DSST Middle School @ Noel
High School Option Resolution
On October 22, the DPS Board of Education voted to approve a DSST High School @ Noel in School Year 2022 with a set of additional conditions that must be met. Unfortunately, this Board resolution leaves 161 students/families at DSST Middle School @ Noel without an option to attend a DSST High School @ Noel next year as they had planned and will result in these students being split up in the coming year as they enter high school. The DSST @ Noel students, families and faculty have worked hard to create a community and a school that they are proud of and they want to continue that into high school. We support their objective of opening a high school in 2021 and will work to support them in this endeavor.  

We will also continue to support and hold accountable DSST’s commitment to continuously improve the quality of education across their network including more specifically their efforts at the Cole and Henry campuses.

RootED’s work is focused on building bridges across difference so that all students can thrive. 
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