I am a daughter of Denver. Much like the students I taught, this city was the first place my family called home. I stand on the shoulders of my family. I shared a small house with my parents, brother, cousins, grandparents, and eight uncles. In that close-knit environment, you learn the importance of working together. Southwest Denver reminds me of opportunity. My parents, Miguel and Angelica, closed on our own home in Athmar Park on my 10th birthday. They were so proud to have achieved the American Dream after immigrating from México. I have deep roots in District 2.
I owe southwest Denver the foundation of who I am. I went sledding on Ruby Hill with my siblings Nicole and Hector in the winter and read at the Athmar Park Library. I spent my Sundays at St. Cajetan’s Catholic Church with my family. I was even the fifth-grade Mile High Scholar at Charles M. Schenck (CMS) Elementary School. I have a strong connection to District 2. Throughout my life I have always gravitated back to this community, to my family.
Throughout my public school career, attending college became my central goal. My parents taught me that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to if I tried my best. Yet, I encountered some of the same barriers that students in District 2 face. I received free and reduced lunch, learned English as a second language, and did not know how to apply to college. Luckily, I had several teachers in high school who showed me the way.
As a teacher, I saw firsthand that not all students have an equal opportunity to be college or career ready.
College taught me how to problem-solve to better my community. I earned my Bachelors degree in political science at Colorado College. It was an honor to my parents’ hard work and sacrifice. I paid for my education through scholarships, three on-campus jobs, and loans. When I looked around me, there were no other peers from southwest Denver. This was when I knew I needed to be a teacher.
In 2011, I had arranged a field trip for my students to visit Colorado College. I wanted them to see what was possible. I taught second- and third-grade literacy for English Language Learners (ELA-S) in Denver Public Schools. While teaching, I received my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado-Denver. During my time teaching, my students gained more than a typical year of growth in their reading skills. I worked with parents, teaching them how to help their students at home. The parents expressed a desire for their children to “terminar una carrera,” or earn a career through higher education.
But, the Ya Basta report by A+ Colorado states that only one out of every ten students in southwest Denver will go to college and graduate. That is unacceptable. This is why I became a community organizer with Together Colorado. I coached parent teams in Denver Public Schools and parishioners in churches. Together, we led the change we wanted to see in our city: We achieved better transportation options for students, improved police and immigrant community relationships. We fought for the right to get driver’s licenses and for strong academic standards at the state Capitol. The struggle continues today.
As a teacher, I saw firsthand that not all students have an equal opportunity to be college or career ready. As an organizer, I have learned that community-centered power ensures sustainable progress. Schools should prepare students with the academic and social foundations necessary to succeed. I have the experience and ganas (will) to make it happen as the Denver Public School Board Director representing District 2.
Angela Cobián is a Denver Public School Board candidate in District 2.