Three Denver-area high schools receive voter registration award

Three Colorado high schools — KIPP Denver Collegiate, DSST Stapleton and Eaglecrest — were all awarded the Eliza Pickrell Routt award last week. The Eliza Pickrell Routt award is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.

Colorado State Elections Director Judd Choate presented the awards to the three schools, which are in the Denver area.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office partners with Inspire Colorado, a nonprofit organization that helps young people register to vote.

KIPP Denver Collegiate High School

Hannah Sieben with Inspire Colorado, Art Curtis, 12th grade social studies teacher at KIPP, and Judd Choate, Colorado state elections director. (SOS photo)

Twelve-grade social studies teacher Art Curtis encouraged his students to register to vote and to participate in the voting process. He successfully registered 86 percent of eligible seniors to vote.

KIPP stands for “knowledge is power program.” KIPP Colorado Schools is a network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools dedicated to preparing students in underserved communities for success in both college and life, according to its website.

DSST: Stapleton High School

Judd Choate, DSST Stapleton senior Zak Flitter-Bilello, and Meghan Baucum with Inspire. (SOS photo)

Denver School of Science and Technology: Stapleton High School registered 87 percent of eligible seniors due to the hard work of two seniors, Zak Flitter-Bilello and Zach Biffinger.

Zak and Zach worked with Inspire to become “Inspired leaders” at their school.

Eaglecrest High School

Judd Choate with Eaglecrest senior Emma Lovato. (SOS photo)

Eaglecrest High School received their second Eliza Pickrell Routt award last Friday.

Senior Emma Lovato has registered almost 500 students throughout her high school career. By giving classroom presentations, she got 86 of her fellow seniors to register.

She is going to American University next year to study American Government.

“You’re going to be my boss someday,” Choate told her.

Secretary Williams to senior class: “Thank you for striving and thriving”

Secretary Wayne Williams with the four students who led their school’s effort in voter registration, left to right: Brisa Aguilar-Velazquez, Samantha Mejia, Secretary Williams, Sandra Gonzalez-Terrones, and Lesli Guzman-Realzola. (SOS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams this week presented a voter registration award to seniors at STRIVE Prep – Excel High School, telling them it’s important for them to be involved because “you’ve got more at stake than anybody else.”

Secretary Williams recognized four students, Brisa Aguilar-Velazquez, Samantha Mejia, Sandra Gonzalez-Terrones and Lesli Guzman-Realzola, who pioneered the effort in getting their peers registered to vote as part of their senior seminar project.

They managed to get 95 percent of the senior class registered, which qualified the entire class to receive the Eliza Pickrell Routt award. It is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.

The Secretary of State’s office partners with Inspire Colorado, a nonprofit organization that helps young people register to vote. Inspire worked with Exel’s director of college access, Caty Husbands, to register eligible students to vote.

Excel Principal Ben Lewis reminded his students of the importance of voting.

The 2018 class of STRIVE Prep – Excel pose with Secretary of State Wayne Williams, center and Principal Ben Lewis, far left. (SOS photo)

“I’m so proud of you seniors for making this happen. Civic engagement is extremely important,” he said.

“And as you also know, there are a lot of problems in our government today. One of the ways we can solve those things is by exercising our voice and voting is one of the ways you can do that.”

Secretary Wayne Williams tells the seniors at Excel why it is so important to be involved. (SOS photo)

Excel Prep was founded five years ago and shares a campus and extracurricular activities with North High School.

There are 11 STRIVE campuses around Denver and three of those campuses are high schools, including Excel. STRIVE Prep was founded 11 years ago under the belief that students from all backgrounds deserve a college preparatory education regardless of race, economic circumstance or previous academic achievement, according to its websiteOf the 321 students, 98 percent are bilingual in English and Spanish and 91 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Sec. Williams was presented with a T-shirt and a welcome message. (SOS photo)

The hallways of the high school were decorated with banners from nearly every university and, rightfully so — 92 percent of the senior class that was honored with the Eliza Pickrell Routt award has been accepted into four-year colleges.

“Thank you for striving and thriving now that you’ve got this award,” Secretary Williams told the students.

“If all you do is get this award, it didn’t do any good. For those of you who have registered to vote, you have to participate in the process. This is your opportunity to play a role.”

Inspire Colorado’s work with high school students inspires donors

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams speaks at a fundraiser Monday for Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan group that encourages high students to register to vote and get involved. To his left, in blue, is Donalyn White with Inspire Colorado and to her right, in a white shirt, is Bob Meinzer, a board member with the national Inspire group. (SOS photo)

Twitter is filled with suggestions about motivating young people to vote this year, but the Centennial State is way ahead of that idea, thanks to Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Inspire Colorado.

Over the last three years, Inspire Colorado has worked with schools across the state in a student-led movement to register classmates to vote or get those already registered to pledge to vote. So far Inspire Colorado has signed up more than 7,000 students.

Williams — who got his start in politics in high school — believes it is so important for young people to be involved he established the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award, which the offices hands out to high schools where more than 85 percent of the senior class has registered to vote.

Roxane White, former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose daughter Donalyn White organized the fundraiser for Inspire Colorado. (SOS photo)

“We would not be where we are today in the state of Colorado without the wonderful support of the Secretary of State’s office and Secretary Williams,” said Ryan Drysdale, regional manager for Inspire Colorado.

Drysdale, Williams and Roxane White, the former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, were among the speakers at a fundraiser Monday night in Denver to benefit Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan organization that works with students, teachers and school administrators to talk to classes about the importance of civic engagement.

“I have to say that Inspire Colorado has become my top charity,” White said. “I’m concerned about the growing inequality in America and the growing anger in America and the feeling that we can’t make a difference.”

Read moreInspire Colorado’s work with high school students inspires donors

Voting and vocation at Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit High School

“I think voting rights is about human rights.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams sits with seniors at Arrupe Jesuit High School Monday morning before handing out an award to the school for its effort in registering eligible students to vote. (SOS photo)

In a ceremony filled with prayers and promise, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Monday recognized Arrupe Jesuit High School for its efforts in getting students registered to vote.

The north Denver Catholic school serves the economically disadvantaged and one of its goals to empower graduates to continue their education and return to their communities as leaders. The 420-member student body is 93 percent Hispanic and 77 percent qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, students at Arrupe Jesuit High School who encouraged their classmates to register to vote. (SOS photo)

During a senior assembly, Williams singled out two students, Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, for their efforts in working with the group Inspire Colorado to get their classmates inspired to register to vote.

Simpson and Tapia’s efforts led to the school receiving the Secretary of State’s Eliza Pickrell Routt award, which is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.

“You’re going to graduate from high school soon. You’re going to be part of the community, and what happens in this community is up to you,” Williams said. “That’s the great thing about the democratic republic in which we live. There is no ‘the man” who makes the decisions for us. We get to make those decisions.”

Also addressing the seniors was state Rep. Dan Pabon, who represents the neighborhood, and Ryan Drysdale with Inspire Colorado.

“Our faith tells us we are working for the least amongst us,”  Pabon said. “I think voting rights is about human rights. ‘Democracy’ can be a controversial word in the world. There are some people who don’t want to have the people control their government because, God forbid, they might actually do something that helps the people.”

Read moreVoting and vocation at Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit High School

DSST Green Valley Ranch receives recognition for voter registration

The Denver School of Science and Technology Green Valley Ranch received an award today from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, back row, left, for its efforts to encourage voter registration.  (SOS photo)

The Denver School of Science and Technology Green Valley Ranch has registered 85 percent of the senior class to vote, making it the first public school in Denver to earn the Eliza Pickrell Routt award.

The award is named after Eliza Pickrell Routt, wife of Colorado’s first governor, John Long Routt, after whom Routt County is named. She was the first woman to register to vote in Colorado.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams told a story he often tells to groups of young people. His high school in Virginia didn’t have a graduating class in 1959 because the town leaders closed the school rather than follow orders to integrate it.

Secretary Williams with the Inspired high school leaders at DSST Green Valley Ranch, John Zeerak and Marjorie Tabora, who are  surrounded by their classmates. (SOS photo)

“I didn’t like that kind of leadership so I got involved and as a high school student,” Williams said.

“I organized about 70 kids to work the polls on election day and stand outside the limit and hand out literature to everyone that came and voted and we changed the leadership in that county for the first time in years.”

Marjorie Tabora, a senior at DSST Green Valley Ranch, who registered the 2017 class and much of the 2018 class, also spoke to her peers about the importance of making your voice heard.

“I know with the current events that happen a lot of you guys are concerned,” she said. “Something to always remember is that voting is the first step and your vote does count and it does matter.”

Secretary Williams reiterated the importance of her message, noting that when he was El Paso county clerk and recorder two school board races that were decided by one vote.

Last year, Yuma High School and Eaglecrest High School received the inaugural Routt awards. This year, Eads and Kit Carson high schools on the eastern plains, Peak to Peak charter school in Lafayette, and Ouray High School have received the awards.

(Main picture, back row, left to right, Secretary Williams, Bradley West, DSST internship coordinator, Ryan Drysdale, Inspire Colorado program coordinator, John Zeerak, senior at DSST Green Valley Ranch high school, and Alton Dillard, communications director for Denver Elections. Front row, left to right, Front left, Marjorie Tabora, senior at DSST Green Valley Ranch high school and Donalyn White, Inspire Colorado program. coordinator.)