It's not often - in fact this is the first time in my experience - I receive an invitation quoting Maya Angelou.
That was consistent, however, with the unique
Animas High School is
taking toward education
student has a unique learning style and topics that engage his or her enthusiasm. In a school system working with 1,500
students, teachers don't always have time to figure those needs out and meet them.
Enter AHS, the new charter school with a curriculum based on technology and projects. Every student and parent
involved with the school is
passionate about the new
approach, which is a tremendous recommendation in and of itself.
But I also believe that our society needs every student
to reach his or her individual level of excellence to be competitive in the world, and for them to live rich and
So when I attended the school's friendraiser" Wednesday at the Strater Hotel, I was delighted to learn more about how
the school works. The event was sponsored by Steve Setka and
"font-weight: bold;">Hollie Dowd.
On display around the room were pieces from the school's first-ever Exhibition, an event that will be held each
semester, where students share what they have learned. Projects about self-identity included powerful and beautiful
masks accompanied by essays in which students took a thoughtful look at who they are to the world
versus who they are inside. There were powerful philosophical statements on stereotypes, dreams and societal
influences on how we think about ourselves.
The first assignment for
the students - who began the
project thinking they are who they are, all on their own - was to watch videos about feral children on YouTube and
write an essay. Needless to say, it was an eye-opener.
Students whose masks
were on display include Carly Pierson, Bryan
Bauer, Dalton Norris, Cori
Gianniny, Daniel Fallon-Cyr, Eli Dickinson, Alicia Whiteman, Hannah Quick,
Kinjah Monroe and Jenna Brooks.
Graphic novels exploring
ancient Greek motifs, such as Jason and the Golden Fleece and Medea, were also exhibited. In addition to some of the
above students, Zachary Marqua's and Tucker Leavitt's work was included.
Ian Bowers and Lily Oswald were far
more poised than I was as a freshman in high school. They addressed the room full of adults and shared what they like
about AHS so far - which is pretty much everything. Bowers said something that is profoundly necessary for becoming a
lifelong learner: He has learned to be proactive in his own education; he is learning to use his time valuably; and
most powerfully, he thinks the experience is helping him become who he wants to be.
Oswald likes the smallness of the school - only about 75 students right now - and how the projects relate to real
Maureen Fallon-Cyr called herself a very satisfied customer" because the
school is teaching her son, Daniel, in the way he learns most naturally - using the Socratic method. He told her one
day that because he was being held to a high standard, he was working on the fourth draft of a project, where in the
past he would have turned in his first draft and received an 'A' on it. (He eventually did five drafts.)
Fallon-Cyr was impressed by one young man at Exhibition who created an electro-magnetic pendulum that didn't work. (He
said he could have done it if he had two more weeks - this one could only be on for 20 seconds or it would start a
fire.) The idea of showing an attempt and what was learned instead of only focusing on success stories is an important
lesson as well.
Dr. Jim Youssef perhaps
expressed the way parents felt about the school before it
We vacillated," he said about himself and his wife,
former Durango School District 9-R School Board member Melissa Youssef,
experiments are concerning,
especially when it comes to your children."
The couple's son, Nathan, transferred to AHS after spending the first week of
school at Durango High School. Youseff said his son told him, Dad, the work that I'm doing there is relevant."
The budget for the first year of AHS was predicated on having 100 freshmen enrolled this year, and the school fell a
little short of the goal, perhaps because of concerns such as the Youssefs had. In Colorado, the money follows the
student, and that means there is a shortfall of about $50,000 for the school to finish the year.
Different committed parents have issued one $8,000 matching grant and two $10,000 challenge grants, so the school is
more than half way there. (And if parents are willing to put their money into it, that is a terrific endorsement.)
If you would like to support the work of the school, send your tax-deductible contributions to Animas High School, P.O.
Box 4414, Durango, CO 81302.
won't keep these folks from having warm birthdays -
Alice Robinson, Tonya Wales, Ron Lephart, Anastasha Asselstine, Paul Duggan, Genna
Kidd, Meredith Mapel, Larry Gaugh, Dell Manners,
Claudia Root, Logan Stetler, Kathy Longwell, Isabella Bussian, Cindy Burnett, Doug
Brouner, Jim Aubrey, Mary Hert, Eric Sieger, Nancy Wassmund, Carol Priest-Nelson, Donna Ninde, Kyle Branson, Eve
Gilmore, Norman Broad (happy 70th!), Rita Lee, Richard Gallavan and Jim
Invited to a holiday party where you're expected to bring a white elephant gift? Looking for holiday gifts that won't
blow your budget? Well, here's one solution to your dilemma.
The Durango High School Rotary Interact Club is holding its annual garage sale today. Donated items that you would like
to contribute may be dropped off at the Durango High School parking lot from
7 to 8 a.m. The actual sale will run from 8 a.m. to noon.
These students model
Rotary's motto, Service Above Self." They will use the monies raised for their work trip to Jamaica during Spring
Break 2010. The students will work with Peace Corps
'Tis the season to be giving, and La Plata Electric Association is in the spirit. Our electricity co-op has donated
$100,000 to Fort Lewis College's Student Union Renovation Project.
While the bulk of the cost for the renovations is being paid by the students in their
activity fees, the community has been asked to raise $5 million toward the cost. And because countless community
meetings and events are held there, that seems only fair.
This donation comes at the perfect time. This summer the Kresge Foundation, which is based in Troy, Mich., awarded $1
million to the project as a challenge grant, with the
requirement that the FLC Foundation raise $566,470
toward the renovation.
To date, including the donation by LPEA, the foundation has raised more than $4.6
million toward the goal - more than 90 percent of the way there.
Margie Deane Gray, the executive director of the foundation, told me that major
donations include a naming opportunity, and while a number of those are taken, several remain. (I'm still campaigning
to have the ballroom named in the honor of yours truly, since I am, after all, the party queen of Durango.)
In addition to building opportunities within the building, which will be a true heart of the FLC community, an alumni
fund drive was kicked off in October to finance the gardens that will embellish the building.
If you want to donate to the Student Union project, call Gray at 247-7177 or visit
How many times during the holidays do you think, Gee, I'd rather just stay home in front of the fire in my flannel
jammies and slippers and (fill in the blank), read a good book, watch television, write Christmas cards, make a batch
of fudge, take a nap ?"
But when it's a cause you believe in, you pull on the pantyhose or knot the noose of a tie, put on your game face and
go - and honestly, have a pretty good time. Still, you have visions of that crackling fire in your head.
Well, Manna Soup Kitchen has the answer to the quandary. It is holding its second annual No-Go Gala with the slogan,
Feed the Hungry. Stay Home." The event will not take place Dec. 25. It's a fundraiser where 100 percent of your
contribution benefits Manna Soup Kitchen to
provide food for the most
fragile in our community at a time of year when their
situation seems the bleakest.
As you plan your holiday giving, consider a contribution to Manna, which in addition to feeding people breakfast, hot,
nutritious lunch and hot or cold to-go dinners, offers vouchers to clients for emergency, temporary housing, gas and
prescriptions, shower and laundry facilities, bus tokens and computer access. It is our first line of defense safety
net. And you don't have to go anywhere.
Contributions may be mailed or dropped off at Manna Soup Kitchen, 1100 Avenida del Sol, Durango, CO 81301.
Enjoy that fire.
Let me issue a reminder that nominations for outdoor Christmas decorations are due by Wednesday, before I head out on
the drive-hundreds-of-miles tour of the county to check out the beautiful, the extravagant, the clever, the
color-coordinated, all white or a
riot-of-color efforts by La Plata County residents to brighten the night during the darkest time of the year.
In the past, I have given category awards, such as I'd Hate to Have to Pay Their Electric Bill," Most Elegant," Best
Holiday Laugh," If You Only See One Display, This is the One," Best Neighborhood" and, starting last year, Greenest
Lights," and in this, my 10th year, I'm open to new ones.
There will also be the grandmaster displays - ones that have been at the top of the list for years. You can nominate
yourself, nominate your neighbor, nominate your friend; but if the home is hard to find, directions are much
Thanks to our Web desk, for the first time ever the Herald will offer an interactive map with video to go with the
print version. The 10th year will be bigger and better than ever.
So contact me in one of the ways mentioned at the end of the column, and come 5 p.m. Wednesday, I'll be on my way.
The holiday lights edition will come out Dec. 19.
For information on upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
Here's how to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584;
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numbers for all items. If you are submitting an item for preview, please send it with briefs in the
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