By Tara Yarlagadda, Field Associate
On an unassuming thoroughfare, surrounded by fast food joints, a strip mall, and a series of chain hotels, no one would have guessed that major progress in education equity was taking place on the 11th floor of the Denver Cherry Creek Marriott hotel. More than 150 parents, teachers, superintendents, legislators, community activists, and other education advocates gathered there on January 30 for the 2015 Great Futures Statewide Education Organizing Conference, which was co-sponsored by the Great Futures Coalition, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and Great Education Colorado.
Over the course of the day, advocates heard from a variety of empowering panelists and speakers, including a parent discussing the need to redress educational inequity in Latino communities by training more teachers of color. The need to find common ground between parents on the Common Core State Standards was also brought into the conversation during the panel discussions.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund also had the opportunity to moderate and participate in a panel discussion with the thought-provoking title “Are We Getting Every Student Ready for the World?” The answer was somewhat disheartening, as advocates responded with a resounding “no, not yet.” However, panelists did present hopeful and tangible solutions to the problems facing Colorado’s schools. After a series of hearty panel discussions and presentations, activists broke up into a variety of workshops in which they spoke with legislators and talked about leading education campaigns.
The Great Futures Colorado Campaign is a project of Great Education Colorado, an organization whose motto can best be described as “grassroots powering education.” The brainpower behind Great Education resides in the basement of a small building in a residential neighborhood in Denver, where a set of determined women work to pave a better future for Colorado’s students by activating grassroots efforts and stimulating investment in the state’s schools and universities. To give a snapshot of what went into making this conference a reality at the Great Education headquarters: In the span of an hour during the day before the conference, one staff member was printing out name labels, another was accommodating last-minute registration requests from eager attendees, while another was preparing table arrangements. Volunteers were prepping packets at light speed while cutting ribbons and preparing lanyards.
All of this energy that went into the conference was directed toward a single common goal: to provide public education supporters with the knowledge, motivation, tools, and camaraderie they need to advocate together effectively to ensure that every student graduates ready for the world.
It was a grand undertaking, to say the least. But I can unequivocally say: they succeeded.
I had the privilege of working alongside the wonderful women of Great Education in preparation for this conference, and I was blown away by their dedication to ensuring that every student leaves school ready for the world that lies beyond. At a time when K-12 students need more resources than ever and adequate standards and tools to measure their success, Great Education is doing its part to make sure that the children of Colorado get a fair chance. The Leadership Conference Education Fund is proud to work with Great Education in this campaign for educational equity.