By Jesus Salazar, President and CEO of Prosono; Colorado Succeeds Board of Directors Member
As a sixth-generation Coloradan, my roots run deep in our great Centennial State. And, as a product of a small farming community that was in one of the poorest counties in the country when I was growing up, I believe strongly that education is one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty and elevate individuals out of the situations that many are stuck in. I quickly discovered when I arrived at the School of Mines after graduating with honors from my local high school, however, that not all schools are created equal.
That’s why I was honored to participate once again in the recent School Choice Week Rally, held on the steps of Colorado’s capitol building during National School Choice Week. The annual event aims to celebrate and bring awareness of the importance of all of the school choice options in Colorado, including traditional public schools, charter public schools, private schools, homeschool programs and so many more.
Hundreds of students, parents, teachers, advocates and legislators joined together to share their passion for ensuring educational equity for all Colorado students. From the choir members of SkyView Academy who sang rousing renditions of well-known hymns and pop songs to the enthusiastic dancing of the Platte River Academy middle school students who proudly waved their yellow School Choice scarves in time to the music, the excitement was palpable.
I’ve participated in this rally in previous years, but this year as I stood at the podium, I was struck not only by the increased size of this year’s event, but also by its diversity. Each student in attendance has different strengths, different needs, different ways of learning, different backgrounds, different goals. Those unique qualities that mark them as distinct and special individuals make it all the more apparent that it is critical for our state to provide them with the best-fit educational choices they need to be successful students and citizens.
Students in Denver are luckier than most, having the privilege of living in a city that ranks third in the country for establishing a positive school choice environment. We can’t rest on our laurels in this regard, though, and we must work to maintain the quality of those school options for Denver’s students and to provide access to similar options for students in other districts. It is imperative that our state provides the students of Colorado with world-class experiences.
As a business owner, I also recognize that the world is accelerating at such a fast clip that our education systems are hard-pressed to keep up. We need our students to graduate with the practical skills required for today’s jobs, like engineering and computer science, but also with the transferable skills that will take them far into the future, such as creativity and problem solving. That’s why it is important that we continue to push for and support the diversity of choice and high-quality options that will deliver innovative, relevant, and engaging educational opportunities for all students.
During the event, I was encouraged by the tremendous political support that school choice enjoys in Colorado, as many of our state legislators shared their belief in giving parents a wide range of options and trusting in them to make the best choice for their child. But, it was the student speakers themselves – including 5th grader Jordan Smith who spoke of receiving “the gift of education” and 8th grader Amelia Marcum from the Denver Language School who gave her entire speech in fluent Mandarin Chinese – who inspired me the most. It is for them and the thousands of students like them that we must stay committed to making sure Colorado is doing everything it can to ensure that all of Colorado’s children are educated to their greatest potential.