KIPPsters Find Life Lessons at High Altitude

Posted Wednesday, February 14, 2018

KIPPsters from KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy and KIPP Denver Collegiate High School got a real-life lesson about what it means to get back up after a fall, as teachers from the two schools organized the first ever KIPP Colorado snowboard and ski trips. Students across all grades participated, and, for many, this was their first time on a snowboard or skis. 

The schools partnered with SOS Outreach, a Colorado nonprofit founded in 1993 to help teach youth character strengths like courage, integrity, wisdom, and compassion by connecting them with the outdoors through activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and camping. 

Phoebe Novitsky, a special education teacher at KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, organized the snowboarding outing to Vail Mountain for KIPPsters in January. Having managed youth programs for SOS Outreach in the past, she hopes providing access and exposure to new experiences will help students step out of their comfort zones and learn how failure can be integral to being successful. 

“This experience aligns with the character strengths KIPP teaches, like grit, resilience, and positivity,” said Novitsky. “Accepting that an experience is challenging and pushing through it is a lesson that aligns with KIPP’s mission and values. We’re excited to continue to find ways to integrate more outdoor learning experiences to complement what students are learning in the classroom.”

Alyssa Bull, who helped organize the outing for KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, saw her students take a strong interest in the mountains. 

“It was really cool to see what each student took away from this experience,” said Bull. “Some kids didn’t end up loving it but they still were glad to have tried it, while other kids were asking ‘when can I move to the mountain?’ Other students hadn’t realized there were so many people who worked in the mountains to keep them running each day. It got them to reflect on their own interests and possibilities in outdoor recreation that they might have never considered.”

SOS outreach coordinates with the mountain parks to provide inexpensive tickets to the slopes. For $25, they provide each student with a lift ticket, ski rentals, a helmet, boots, and skis/snowboard. They also provide all the special clothing students need, like ski pants, jackets, gloves, and goggles. 

Ms. Novitski and Ms. Bull both hope to continue and grow the program, so that students can continue to learn about the outdoors and about themselves in the process.  

“As a math teacher, I feel like I have great days in the classroom and not-so-great days,” said Bull. “It can be hard to make math memorable all the time, especially for every student. But to have a day when you can tell students that they are going to grow from this and remember and cherish it for a long time is really cool, because I feel the same way. I’m going to remember this and cherish this forever.”


Tags: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School , KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy

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KIPPsters at the Capitol

Posted Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On Thursday, a group of KIPPsters from KIPP Denver Collegiate High School and KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy attended the 2017 Colorado League of Charter School Advocacy Day. Students spent the morning learning about how bills become law in Colorado, and how they can make their voices heard on issues that are important to them. 

While at the Capitol, KIPPsters spent time on the floor of the State Senate, where they heard arguments about bills that dealt with taxes, healthcare, and privacy rights. Senator Angela Williams spoke to the students about what the Senate was working on that day, and about her support for charter public schools. Senator Owen Hill also joined the group to talk about the business of the day. 

After a tour of the Capitol, KIPPsters heard from the people who work in the Office of Legislative Legal Services about their role in drafting legislation. Observing the State House of Representatives and chatting with State Representative James Coleman rounded out the morning before KIPPsters headed back to school. 

Throughout, KIPPsters discussed the importance of Senate Bill 61—a measure that would ensure equal funding for charter public schools along with all public school choices. That measure had recently passed the Senate, and was waiting for a committee assignment in the House. 

For more photos of KIPPsters at the Capitol, click here



Tags: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School , KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy

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Grit, zest, and a little love: KIPPsters learn to grow their own food

Posted Friday, April 07, 2017


For most high school students, springtime means warmer weather and the anticipation of summer vacation. 

But for students in Mr. Finch’s Outdoor Leadership class at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School, springtime means getting into the dirt and planting seeds that will turn into summertime vegetables. 

On Friday, KIPPsters took to the KDCHS garden armed with radish, spinach, lettuce, and pea seeds. Although the ground was blanketed in snow just three days earlier, students said they felt confident the time was right to plant the seeds.

“We’re not too worried because we made sure these plants are hearty and can survive some cold weather,” said Karla, a junior at KDCHS. “I’m excited to cook them, but I’m most excited about seeing them go from a seed to a whole plant.”

Emelyn, also a junior at KDCHS, said the garden project has impacted her in two ways. 

“This has made me think about how I could grow food and turn that into a business. But I also like to cook and am now thinking about how I can use these ingredients over the summer to help me be at my best for next basketball season.”

The garden is part of KIPP Colorado’s health and wellness initiative to improve the health and wellness of students, families, and the community. 

Mr. Finch believes the garden offers multiple benefits for the students.

“My students have been really interested in learning more about eating healthy and learning to cook using healthy ingredients,” said Mr. Finch. “They’re excited about the garden project and the sense of accomplishment from growing their own food.”

Other schools in the KIPP Colorado region are offering their own health and wellness activities and resources, including a cooking class for middle school students, a no-cost grocery program in Far Northeast Denver, and Zumba classes for parents. 

Andrea Rougé is the Director of Health and Wellness at KIPP Colorado Schools. She says programs like this are important for not just the physical health benefits from eating healthy food, but also for the mental health benefits from spending time outside nurturing a living plant.

“The vegetables that students grow themselves not only taste better, but they also get students excited about cooking and eating healthy foods and give the students a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

The vegetables are set to be ready for harvest before the end of the school year. Students from Mr. Finch’s class will be able to take home the bounty and use the vegetables however they choose. Many of the students said they were planning to find recipes that they cook using their fresh produce. 

For now, Mr. Finch’s class is just hoping there isn’t any more snow in the forecast. 

Tags: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School

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Colorado Rapids Soccer Stars Visit KIPP Denver Collegiate High School

Posted Friday, October 07, 2016

Colorado Rapids soccer players joined the KIPP Denver Collegiate High School boys soccer team for a recent practice
Colorado Rapids soccer players joined the KIPP Denver Collegiate High School boys soccer team for a recent practice

Two members of the Colorado Rapids joined the KIPP Denver Collegiate boys soccer team at a recent practice on a perfect fall afternoon. Midfielder Michael Azira and defender Dennis Castillo observed practice and spoke for an hour with the team about the qualities that have propelled them to success on and off the soccer pitch.

Azira, who grew up in Uganda, extolled the importance of setting goals—both big and small—and working every day toward those goals. He also emphasized the importance of character strengths like leadership and grit, sharing that a good leader is someone who is dependable, communicative, and willing to sacrifice for the team.

“Out on the field—this is your family,” he said. “Fight for each other. Never be afraid to fail, but learn from each other when you do. When you make yourself better, you make your team better. Effort has no bad day.”

Castillo, a native of Costa Rica, noted that he grew up in a community not unlike that of Southwest Denver. He spoke about his experience working toward a college scholarship, and the importance of finding and utilizing the many resources that exist to make that possible.

“Some people will always have more than you, and some people will always have less than you,” he told the team. “Take advantage of everything you have here at school and put the work in. There’s really no big secret other than that to reaching your goals.”

For the past two years, the KDCHS boys soccer team has consistently ranked among the top teams in the state. Currently, they are the second ranked 3A team in Colorado. They are on track to win the conference and host the first and second round of the playoffs, pending approval from CHSAA.

Check out highlights from a recent victory over Jefferson High School on 9News.

Tags: KIPP , KIPP Denver Collegiate High School , leadership

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Challenge Day at KIPP Colorado

Posted Thursday, September 15, 2016

What happens when you ask an entire class of KIPPsters to spend a full day devoted to dropping labels, judgments, and walls and working to build one another up by creating a supportive environment at school? 
For 9th and 10th grade students at KIPP Denver Collegiate High School and KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, the answer came during Challenge Day, a program designed to help students forge deep connections with their peers and build a school culture of respect and acceptance. 
The day started out with music, games, and tons of high-energy activities to help KIPPsters get to know as many of their fellow classmates as possible. After dancing, running, and a game of giant volleyball, KIPPsters gathered as a group to hear Challenge Day leaders share their stories of growing up, followed by a discussion about how people often don’t see what’s really going beneath the image that people project.
After lunch—and more games—KIPPsters split up into small “family groups,” where they could choose to share something that people might not know about them. Around the circle, students and the adult facilitators shared stories that started with, “if you really knew me, you would know…” It was a powerful exercise, and each day, many emotions rose within the family groups.
The afternoon was dedicated to addressing concepts like oppression, discrimination, and equity through activities that allowed KIPPsters and adult facilitators to express themselves in a safe, supportive atmosphere. 
Finally, at the end of a long, intense day, KIPPsters pledged to be the change they want to see in their schools. Armed with a new understanding of both the previously-unseen challenges faced by their peers and the tools to make their school a supportive and loving environment, KIPPsters now begin their school year with a plan to treat each other with respect and love. 
Students and adults alike attest that Challenge Day was a powerful, deeply moving experience, and one that provided an important avenue for empathy and understanding. 
“Many students realized that they all are going though struggles right now,” said Rachael Bibby, Director of School Operations at KNDLA. “They learned they can lean on one another in a way they never knew they could before.”
We’re grateful to all the volunteers who helped make Challenge Day possible for students at both KIPP Colorado high schools. 

Tags: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School , KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy

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