Two national organizations have awarded Denver Public Schools $1.4 million in grants. The money will be used to expand Student Voice and Leadership’s (SVL) action civics and critical civic inquiry work across high schools. The grants – $1M over three years from the Hewlett Foundation and $400,000 over two years from Jobs for the Future – are research-practice partnership efforts with the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Denver and Rowan University, which will allow the SVL programming to triple across DPS high schools.
On Monday, Superintendent Tom Boasberg joined students, educators and grant partners at South High School to celebrate the grant funding and SVL civic inquiry work.
“I am delighted to announce this extraordinary grant in Denver Public Schools around how we develop not just the voice, but the leadership capabilities of our students,” said Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “Denver Public Schools has been very committed to, and is a national leader in, our leadership-development programs for our school leaders. But leadership can’t just be about our adults; it has to equally be about our students.”
The grant projects respond to the nationwide challenge of preparing all students to participate as active citizens of a democracy and aims to study and scale an approach to youth civic and leadership development offered by SVL programming, called action civics. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to identify a compelling problem motivated by tensions between their everyday experiences and dreams for the future – particularly tensions related to issues of equity and social justice – study that problem through original research, and then advance their ideas by sharing their work with school leaders, policymakers or other public audiences.
“Because of some of my identities, like being young, brown and undocumented, I felt silenced my whole life,” said Jocelyne Arguelles, a senior at DCIS Baker and executive leader of the Student Board of Education (SBOE), of the importance of student voice and leadership. “But when I joined the SBOE, I realized that people like me had a voice and they shared their opinions fearlessly. I learned not to be afraid and to speak up about the inequities in my education”
“I want to give a huge thank you to our partners – the Hewlett Foundation, Jobs for the Future and our University Partners at CU-Denver, CU-Boulder and Rowan University,” said Solicia Lopez, DPS Student Voice and Leadership Manager. “I have spent the past six years developing Student Voice and Leadership and the Student Board of Education within DPS so that students are able to make statements like Jocelyne just did. That is truly why this work is so important.”
When students discover their core strengths and apply them in real-world experiences through the SVL program, students and school cultures are transformed. By nurturing the whole child, supporting youth/adult partnerships and leveraging community assets, SVL programs are life-changing for Denver students.