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Shared Stories From Across the Globe

Dec. 15, 2017
Author Helen Thorpe visits with South High Students.

“So many of our students have overcome unimaginable odds in countries halfway across the world and are facing each day with grace and a determination to learn and create a better life.”

Supt. Tom Boasberg

Supt. Tom Boasberg

Dear Team DPS,

While at times this year divisions within our country have been emphasized, an event on Wednesday at South High School was a timely reminder of how much we have in common across the extraordinarily diverse student body we are so lucky to have in Denver Public Schools. Award-winning author Helen Thorpe was revisiting a classroom of 22 immigrant and refugee teenagers at South — the same students she wrote about in her new critically acclaimed book, “The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom.”

“I was watching students arrive and feel so glad to have a safe home, sometimes for the first time in their lives,” Thorpe shared of her experience getting to know the English Language Acquisition (ELA) students at South. “The reality of their lives here was so different from that of the political rhetoric unfolding at that time. … Our national dialogue was getting so skewed, so much more polarized and not based in truth. I want to do whatever I can to fix that and represent families better.”

DPS classrooms are enriched by more than 36,600 students who speak 194 different world languages. These students make up 42% of the total DPS student population. Our ELA programs support these culturally and linguistically diverse students so that they can participate equally and meaningfully in the classroom.

Helen Thorpe's new book is called The NewcomersSouth High School is home to one of six Newcomer Centers in the district, designed for students who are new to the United States, some of whom have had little formal education in the war-torn countries from which they have come. In these newcomer centers, students receive specialized English instruction with low student-adult ratios that prepare them for participation in the school.

Having met with some of these students at South and reading Helen’s eloquent telling of their experiences, it’s hard not to beam with pride at the courage and tenacity our students demonstrate. So many of them have overcome unimaginable odds in countries halfway across the world and are facing completely new situations each day with grace and a determination to learn and create a better life.

It’s incredibly humbling and inspiring — and incredibly American. Their stories are the stories of so many of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Edward Williams, the ELA teacher whose classroom Thorpe observed for her book, shared that, “In our day-to-day life, our classrooms seem really normal but, in fact, they are really special.” Indeed, they are a place where our students can be safe, supported, encouraged and ultimately given the opportunity to thrive. And we are fortunate to learn from them.

“When Ms. Thorpe asked to write about me, I didn’t know why anyone would want to,” said 11th-grade student Methusella from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “I see my story now in her book and I’m proud to share my refugee story.”

As I reflect on the many times I’ve experienced what a special place our classrooms are, I am tremendously hopeful about not only the year ahead, but our country’s future.


Pictured above: Award-winning author Helen Thorpe returned to South High School to talk with students whose stories she shared in her new book “The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom.”

Want to get updates about the great things happening in DPS? Follow me on Twitter @SuptTomB.

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DPS News Now: Weekly Headlines from DPS in 60 Seconds

This week, we visited West Campus for their 77th annual Singing Christmas Tree and welcomed author Helen Thorpe to South High School as she reunited with students she profiled in her latest book. Learn more about this week’s events in 60 seconds!

English: DPS News Now -- Dec. 11-15 Spanish: Lo último en DPS -- Dec. 11-15

Didn’t see last week’s DPS News Now video? Not to worry! DPS News Now videos are posted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo every Friday. All DPS News Now videos are also available in Spanish as Lo último en DPS.

Learn About SchoolChoice in DPS

DPS School Choice animated videoDPS SchoolChoice is as easy as finding the best school for your student, applying between Feb. 1-28, and registering when you receive your school notification! Watch this video to learn all about the DPS SchoolChoice process.

Not sure what school is best for your student? Browse our 2018-19 Great Schools Enrollment Guides available in both English and Spanish here. The guides feature districtwide information on how to enroll, transportation services, programs and more!

For more information about SchoolChoice, visit or call the SchoolChoice hotline at 720-423-3493.

60 DPS Schools Honored for Top Performance

McKinley Thatcher Students

Students at McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School.

Congratulations to our students and educators whose hard work resulted in high growth or improvement on state assessments! Sixty DPS schools have earned a state award for their performance on the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS).

Each year, the Colorado Department of Education recognizes public schools in the state where 75% of students are considered at-risk and demonstrate the highest rates of student academic progress, as measured by the Colorado Growth Model.

Click here to see the schools that received top performance awards!

Access Past Editions of Our DPS Weekly

Looking for past editions of Our DPS Weekly? You can now access previous editions on The Commons and, or in the link located at the bottom of Our DPS Weekly every Friday. If you have questions or feedback, email


Dec. 18: Board of Education monthly work session
Dec. 21: Board of Education monthly meeting and public comment session
Dec. 22-Jan. 5: Schools closed for winter break
Jan. 6-21: Get discounted tickets to The National Western Stock Show