Student Spotlight:

Beating the Odds


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Graduating high school on time is an extraordinary achievement; graduating in five years is sometimes even more so. No one better exemplifies the grit of a ‘super senior’ than David, now completing his final year at Denver’s Center for 21st Century (DC21) Learning.



Before joining Denver Kids in 2010, David couldn’t see his way to completing high school. “I felt so far behind, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to catch up.” Lost at school, alone on the streets, and “trapped” inside his own head, David’s pent up talents finally found expression in a spray of aerosol paint on the sides of Denver’s buildings and streetcars. “It wasn’t legal,” he acknowledges, “but I was living in the moment. I didn’t know how to think about outcomes.”

Even after being in the Denver Kids program for several years, David dropped out of high school. The obstacles to graduation were too overwhelming. Working a series of low-wage jobs for a few months and shaken by the tragedies of friends who became criminals instead of completing school, David quickly regretted dropping out, yet he held out little hope that he would be able to return to school. It was his Educational Counselor, Dan, who would not give up on David. When speaking of the relationship he has with his Educational Counselor, David admits that it helped there were no strings attached. “I always felt respected; like the decision was mine, not for someone else to make. This made me feel responsible, like an equal.”

After months of constant encouragement, Dan helped David transition to a school with a more collaborative approach to learning. David has advanced his extraordinary artistic talents, and now writes graffiti pieces for school projects and paid commissions. He has also nurtured his own personal vision: after he graduates high school in May 2015, he will study at technical college to become an auto mechanic. His enthusiasm for cars is equivalent in intensity to his enthusiasm for graffiti art, and he is eager to unite both passions in auto customization. But David also aspires to acquire sophisticated skills that will enable him to hone cars into precision machines.

I always felt respected; like the decision was mine, not for someone else to make. This made me feel responsible, like an equal.

We honor David for his tenacious commitment to lifelong learning and the partnership he shares with his Educational Counselor, Dan. Together we are stronger, one graduate at a time.