Here’s to the 2018 graduates of Bruce Randolph School, who laughed and cried Tuesday as they honored each other and their teachers.
It’s a tradition for the senior class to have lunch at Maggiano’s as they leave high school and head out into the world. They’re a close bunch because many have gone to school together for seven years; Bruce Randolph, at 39th and Steele in Denver, serves students from sixth to 12th grades.
“I appreciate you for believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself,” was one of the many tributes to the teachers and staff.
This year’s event included a new feature: an appearance by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who presented seniors with the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award. It is given to schools where 85 percent or more of the senior class registers to vote.
The seniors whooped and cheered as Williams held up the award. He asked how many students were going to be 18 by June 26, the date of Colorado’s primary election.
To those who raised their hands, he said they would be receiving ballots.
“It’s awesome that you are registered to vote, but now you’ve got to do something with it.” Williams said.
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
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
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.
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.
“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.”
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 website. Of the 321 students, 98 percent are bilingual in English and Spanish and 91 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches.
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.”
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert headed to the Eastern Plans this week to present the Eliza Pickrell Routt award to Strasburg High School seniors.
The award is presented to high schools that have registered 85 percent or more of eligible students. The Secretary of State’s office partners with Inspire Colorado to encourage young people to vote.
Deputy Secretary Staiert recognized two seniors, Alison Nuttall and Justine Landrum, for leading the effort to get their peers registered. They took on the challenge as part of a senior project that included a presentation to the senior class about the importance of voting and how to register to vote.
“For all of you that are going away to college or going away somewhere else, keep in mind you can use your phone to change your address come November to ensure that you get a ballot,” Staiert said. “Keep that civic engagement that you have here going.”
Inspire Colorado’s website says “Regardless of political affiliation or points of view, our goal is to encourage all eligible citizens to vote.”
Principal Jeff Rasp says that he hopes to continue the registration efforts in the future by getting at least 90 percent of seniors to register each year. This is the first time Strasburg High School has received the Eliza Pickrell Routt award.
“We fully expect all of our registered students to vote on a consistent basis and be involved as responsible citizens,” he said.
“We strongly encourage our students to become involved in their community and that they truly do have a voice,” Principal Rasp said. “We want our students to be responsible citizens and registering to vote and then voting is a crucial part of having a positive impact on our society.”
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.
“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.”