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A Beacon Network alum urges DPS board to preserve the innovation zone

Editor’s note: This article was written by Amelia Federico, a graduate of Grant Beacon Middle School and now a junior at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is also an active member of Our Turn, a youth-led movement dismantling oppressive structures that limit access to quality education.

My name is Amelia Federico and I am a junior at MSU Denver and a proud Denver Public Schools alumni. I am urging the DPS Board of Education to vote NO on the superintendent’s recommendation to dismantle the Beacon Network Innovation Zone.

I support of the Beacon zone maintaining its operating status in DPS because of my transformative experience as a student at Grant Beacon Middle School.

Amelia Federico

I attended DPS from the age of five through high school. I was extremely grateful for my time at DPS, and will always appreciate the things I learned and the people I met along the way. Some of my best years in DPS were at Grant Beacon, where I had access to a supportive community environment, enrichments that other schools don’t offer, and robust social emotional and mental health support.

From the moment I started sixth-grade academy until I walked across the stage at 8th-grade continuation I felt safe and supported at Grant Beacon. The experience at Grant was unique.

One of my favorite parts about attending Grant Beacon was the opportunity to enroll in enrichments. I had the chance to be exposed to learning material and opportunities I would not had otherwise.

When I was in the sixth grade I was in a peer mentorship program. I was assigned an eightth grader who supported me through my first year transitioning to a new school. I knew if I had a question I had someone to talk to. This created a very special sense of belonging and community engagement which I loved.

In the seventh grade, I attended an enrichment on how to start a blog. This was exciting for me because I love writing and wanted to improve my skills. This enrichment exposed me to blog design, marketing, and professional writing.

In the eighth grade, I was part of a math enrichment program where I received 1:1 support from my math teacher. This 1:1 support was extremely beneficial for me because I had the opportunity to ask questions without hesitation, get to know my teacher, and build community.

To this day I am still connected with my middle school math teacher, and that right there is the power and strength of the Beacon community. These experiences were unique to the Beacon Innovation Zone. Years later I am still talking about how these programs changed my life.

I believe that future generations of Denver students should have access to a school environment and the phenomenal Beacon Innovation Zone.

The recent proposal from DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero to revoke the district’s partnership with the Beacon Innovation Zone breaks my heart. It is deeply troubling to me that a leader like Alex Magaña, who is leading on equitable education, is being penalized for all of his hard work.

It concerns me that the topic of conversation in education spaces is dominated by public vs charter and innovation schools. In reality, local leaders’ efforts as it pertains to education must be student-centered.

The Beacon Innovation Zone has been intentionally created around the needs of the communities its two schools serve and it is drastically improving educational outcomes. As an illustration, from 2013 to 2016 Kepner Beacon was run by the district. During this time the school was a red school. On the flip side, starting in 2017-2019 the school was run by the Beacon Innovation Zone and grew into a green school.

I believe it is of utmost importance to protect the Beacon Innovation Zone for the sake of both Grant Beacon and Kepner Beacon. I had access to Grant Beacon living in southeast Denver, and students in southwest Denver deserve exactly the same.

Southwest Denver residents deserve a high-performing middle school that they can rely on. Leaders of color like the incredible Alex Magaña deserve trust, partnership, and support. Above all, rather than arguing over who can run the school better, why don’t we talk about what we can all do to support students in the southwest without disruption to the community ?

The Beacon Innovation Zone has clearly demonstrated year after year that it is meeting the unique needs of its students. DPS board, I am urging you to vote NO on the superintendent’s proposal to eliminate the Beacon zone.