Throughout the school year, Denver Public Schools (DPS) high school students have challenged the status quo as part of Challenge 5280, an annual DPS student leadership competition. The competition encourages Student Board of Education (SBOE) leaders to flex their civic muscles and take on social justice issues they see within their schools.
“5280 allows all schools across Denver to voice their opinions on the systems within their school, and how they as students would like to make a change,” said Carmen Yohannes, a junior at DSST Cole High School.
Beginning early in the school year, students select one of a number of challenges that touch on issues relating to student health, school culture and student engagement. Then, students ask their peers about what changes or improvements they would like to see in their school community.
At Thomas Jefferson High School (TJ), student leaders were troubled by findings in a survey their peers filled out about sexual wellness.
“Some people didn’t even know what sexual harassment or sexual assault was,” said Mariah Hurd-Crews, a junior at TJ whose team focused on both lessening stigma around those topics, and improving support for victims of sexual violence. “This allows us to combat issues we see first-hand, and do something about it instead of just letting it continue.”
Other topics that students developed in response to social justice problems at their schools included Empowering Young Men of Color (DCIS Baker), Culturally Responsive Training PDU (Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy), Student Voice In Hiring (CEC Early College), and Don’t Divide, Diversify (Denver North High School).
Competition culminates in a showcase at the end of the school year, inviting the community to learn from students about successes, short-term improvements, and areas for future collaboration.
“It allows me to have this outlet of my own voice being heard in DPS,” said TJ senior Malia McDorman, “and me feeling like I really play a part in this education system.”
Watch this ¡Somos DPS! video to hear more from students about how they used their voice to create and institute policy change, in hopes of shaping the future of school culture in DPS.
Visit studentvoice.dpsk12.org to learn more about Challenge 5280 and other student-led efforts within Denver Public Schools Student Voice and Leadership.
2019 Challenge 5280 Results
Students Choice (highest valued award)