Culturally Relevant Concurrent Enrollment Courses at DPS

Oct. 15, 2021

“How to Change the World,” “Women of Color,” and “Education Equality” are just a few of the culturally relevant Concurrent Enrollment (CE) courses offered at Denver Public Schools this year. At high schools throughout the district, there are 48 culturally relevant courses that students can choose from and over 100 concurrent enrollment course options.

Concurrent Enrollment courses allow students to earn free college credit while still in high school, giving them a head start on their college and career goals. Students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college while in their supportive high school environment or on a college campus, earning college and high school credits simultaneously.

Shaleena Gaskin, DPS’ Concurrent Enrollment manager, has long been an advocate for culturally responsive CE course offerings at DPS.

“Culturally relevant courses remove barriers to access while providing scholars the opportunity to participate in engaging and interesting courses around social issues they care about,” she said.

Students are not only learning how to change the world, but also the history of different cultures that is too often left out of traditional textbooks. In “Intro to Chicano Studies,” students are introduced to the wealth and diversity of each culture and history through a wide range of historical and social scientific studies, testimonials, films, music, art, and border studies.

Another course option, “Intro to Africana Studies,” examines the history, literature, arts, material culture, as well as sociological, political, economic, and philosophical perspectives of the experiences of Blacks, particularly in the United States. The course places the experiences of African Americans within the broader context of the African Diaspora as it explores issues of identity and liberation movement; and sheds light on the relationship between the past, present and future in shaping Black worldviews and their contributions to the human experience.

Cori Abdolhosseinzadeh, Intro to Ethnic Studies instructor at Montbello Career and Technical High School explained the importance of offering culturally responsive courses like the one she teaches.

“Ethnic Studies provides students an opportunity to learn about the commonalities and struggles they may share with groups of people across the world. The content provides a window into cultures they may have never received exposure to; and the course is geared towards engendering deeper empathy towards those whom, on the surface, may appear different from us.” 

She went on to explain, “If we are able to practice finding connections and experience the surprise of learning something new consistently, this can then help to challenge entrenched patterns of expectation. Often we see history repeat itself due to reactive patterns. If we can teach people to think critically and extend empathy, prior to reacting, we then have a hope for a better world, and have empowered individuals with skills to lead more peaceful lives. Additionally, if we are able to expand our universe of obligation and scope of care more broadly, then as a society we are all better for it.”

And students in Ms. Abdolhosseinzadeh’s class are eager to learn.

“I hope to learn about things and events that happen in different countries and learn about different areas and cultures of other people. This class is very interesting because I’ve learned many new things about countries that I didn’t know about, which helps expand the way of thinking of other countries that you haven’t learned about,” said student Max Felix-Herrera.

Culturally Responsive CE courses are offered during both the fall and spring semesters. Interested students can contact their school counselor for more information about the specific courses offered at their school.