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1 Thing Plus

"Love Back" to Combat Bullying

The Challenge Denver team has a vision to change the lives of thousands of students on a daily basis with its new campaign "Love Back" to combat bullying through the 1Thing Plus Denver initiative.  After the tragic Aurora theater shootings, this was a wake up call for humanity to take action. "Love Back" to make a difference through the 1Thing Plus Denver is a measurable call to action for adults and students alike throughout our school and larger communities to do one good thing each day that will unite individuals and strengthen communities.  

“1Thing Plus Denver reminds people that, young or old, powerful or not, we can all make a difference,” said Betsy Leighton, Board Chair of Challenge Day National.  “The way to stop bullying for any of us at any age is to feel connected to one another.  1Thing Denver is about making these connections everyday.”

Its about the kids...

As part of the 1Thing Denver Initiative we asked Denver Public School students what is 1Thing that you would change in education today.   We heard from 100's of students.  Below are the Top 5 Essays. Please take a moment to read from these inspiriting students. 


Essay 1

Adriana Olivas

October 24, 2011


Let’s go back in time, when we valued education and morals as a nation. Our ancestors whether black, white, or Latino can relate to this. Books were treasured. Education had so much value; it was viewed as an honor, an opportunity, a privilege. People went through struggles and years of hard work to make it to even to the sixth grade. A lot has changed since then. We’ve got schools in almost every neighborhood and about ten students on every corner that is ditching to go with those schools. It is very rare to find a teenager who actually likes being in school. Many adults don’t even know who wrote our national anthem. Finding a kid my age that enjoys reading is to ask for a needle to be found in a stack of hay. It is obvious that something is not working. So when I am asked what I would change about education, it is hard for me to name one thing. I refuse to say longer lunch breaks like most would say. My interest is not even in shorter school hours. I’d ask for a change in our entire system. To analyze where it is we have gone wrong, and re- map our plan for education. Change that will open minds, hearts, and points of view. So in fifty years, our offspring will open their History Alive books and proudly say how much of an inspiration Generation Y was; and how we are still reaping the positive things we sowed.

Life today is made easy. We can obtain free textbooks at the library at no cost seven days a week. We have iPhones and laptops that allow us to read any book at any location. We also have Dragon, who writes down anything we dictate to it for us. Other countries like Mexico, where my family is from, suffer from an immense nationwide poverty. Most cannot afford toys or books; at times not even food. Being able to even read a full sentence is seen as a privilege, yet we take entire encyclopedias for granted. Teens my age typically have at least three types of gadgets; television, cell phones, music devices, computers, cameras, etc. Texting, surfing the web, Jersey Shore, and Black Ops gain far more interest than Calculus, American Literature, and Biology ever will. Many treat books as if they are simply junk that collect dust. The same happens with our teachers, whom are often treated as the enemy as opposed to a mentor. As a youth we take for granted everything that we are given as a country. Education should go hand in hand with morals and values; teaching our kids to love math as much as they should love nature and his or her peers. Our first step should be out reach; opening up people’s minds. Showing everyone to appreciate education and view it as the blessing it is; not just something we are sentenced to while growing up.


I feel that our system sets us up for a “blind leading the blind” situation. Simply because many students do not even fully intake the content we are taught. Passing a class is as simple as missing school for an entire week, then doing make-up work that we get help on. We are then handed a piece of paper that states we are college ready just like that. The teenagers that were arrested last week for robbing a liquor store and the girl who is pregnant at sixteen are the future “leaders” of our countries.

On the contrary, China spends a whole extra month in school. Their school days are about nine hours long on average, with three to four hours of homework and two or three more hours on extra-curricular activities. This leaves the rest of their free time with chores and dinner, possibly jobs here and there, and no time for video games. In our case however, we spend about eight hours in school; when we are not ditching class to smoke outside or eating a burger down the street. We get about two hours homework that we turn in incomplete or done sloppily. If we have chores it takes us about an hour to complain about it, then ten minutes to actually do it; leaving us with countless hours of television, videogames, and an entire day of texting in between and even during all of these.

We have a very slow system of learning. We are taught multiplication towards the third or fourth grade, while in Mexico in second grade all students have all of their times tables memorized. I recently saw a video made by a researcher; out of all the information given one thing impacted me the most. He stated that 25% of India’s population has a higher IQ than our entire nation as a whole. From my understanding this shows how greatly the education system in other countries overshadows ours.

Many adults have given up on us. We have been labeled as a lazy and mediocre generation; one of the worst in history. There are statistics that degrade us almost as much as our behaviors do. For instance, the Ten: Five: One. This suggests that out of every ten children who attend kindergarten, only five will graduate from high school and out of those five only one will go to college. Sadly, I have come think that they are right. As we are right now, they have every right to say such things, after all that is the image we have set forth on ourselves. As I look around at my peers, I question myself; who has what it takes to be a doctor, lawyer, or even a teacher for that matter? Realistically, I cannot think of very many as sad as it sounds. These angry, lazy, pot-head kids are the future of our country. It’s frightening. While future leaders and entrepreneurs are being made around the world, my friends are planning for the next rave.

So how can we change this? Standing around with our arms crossed has obviously not done the trick. We need to do some serious remodeling with or entire system, and our attitudes. Having more parent involvement and student voice is key. It’s very hard to know what someone expects from you without hearing them out first. Motivation is also a missing pillar. Innovation and new strategies are urgent, as is teaching that being a hard worker is a virtue, not just a challenge that is put on us.

It is time that we unite. Setting apart our age differences and actually do something. Education, the fate of our lives, our offspring, and our nation depends on it. Whether we lift it up or continue to let things fall apart will cause huge results. After all, the stones we throw in the water today; will be the ripple effect in the ocean of tomorrow.



Essay 2

Elizabeth Villanueva

Bruce Randolph School

Education is lacking a strong teacher to student relationship. At Bruce Randolph School where I attend the teachers and students know each other in a unique way. There is trust and the students are more comfortable asking for help, because the teachers take the time to get to know the students one to one. This is how all schools should be, teachers should be someone of confidence for their students. This will make them succeed because they will feel that the teachers are supporting them. This is why I love Bruce Randolph. If I were to go to another school where teachers didn’t show interest in their students I wouldn’t want to try hard, I wouldn’t feel the need to succeed if there was no feeling of support. I would change the student teacher relationships by making DPS make a mandatory week for teachers and students to get to know each other by having activities and talks about each other. I firmly believe that student teacher relationships can make a difference not only on test scores but also on how students perform in schools, which would help out the district and the state. Students want to know that they have the support from their teachers because they may not have that at home. When teachers know their students and what they want to accomplish its easier for the teachers to assist in any way they can to get the students on the right path for success. This is what I would change in education because it has made a big difference in my education and I’m confident that it will change other students educations as well when we try to solve the problem from the bottom because then other problems like test scores and behavioral issues will be solved.


Essay 3 

Karim Sanchez 

Bruce Randolph School

Changing Education

One thing that would improve education is to change the environment in which students are attending school by creating a positive supported learning system. Changing the atmosphere in schools will significantly impact public school graduation rates and test scores will increase drastically. The reason why many schools fail to educate their students is because the schools aren’t structured to meet the needs of individual students. A better educated people will lead to great things.

In order to improve the quality of education that students receive, the expectations that are set upon them need to be raised. The teachers in place should be replaced with other teachers who fit the needs of the students and schools. If students are to meet the higher expectations set upon them they will need teachers who will support them along the way. To help motivate students to go the extra mile they should receive recognition for their achievements, also students who fail to meet their expectations should be held accountable through punishments that vary for each school and student. Certain privileges that are valued by students who fail to meet their expectations should be revoked until they accomplish what is required of them. If these students continue to fail to meet the new expectations set in place they should be placed in a specialized class where they are educated on how hard life will be if the drop out of school or only have a high school diploma. Educating students on the effects due to their consequences should have an impact on how they value their education.

If students are surrounded by teachers who believe in them and are provided with the support needed they are bound to achieve success. Usually minority students are expected to fail because they are attending public schools. Ethnicity and income should not play a role in the quality of education that they receive. Students who are successful accomplish great things for various reasons, such as great teachers who care and assist them, as well as a positive environment where they can thrive. Certain schools provide various forms of recognition for students who go above and beyond, this in turn re-enforces the fact that hard work pays off. On the other hand strict disciplinary action is taken when a student isn’t meeting the standards that they are required to meet.

Students in lower income schools all across America are not receiving the education that they deserve. These students who live in lower income neighborhoods are stereotyped as being stupid and complete failures. In truth these students are not failures they can become intelligent if they have the right educators to teach them. With the right teachers and environment, success is obtainable by anyone. The reason why minority students fail and give up on education is because their teachers are not expecting them to succeed, thus resulting in an ongoing poverty cycle. In these cases the teacher has failed to support the students and the students have failed in seeking support leading to countless consequences: high dropout rates, high crime rates, and high poverty rates, etc…

A perfect example of how a school can become successful by completely changing its environment and teaching staff is Bruce Randolph. Six years ago it was shut down because it was failing to meet the states requirement tests scores and graduation rates. Bruce Randolph was re-opened under new management; Dr. Waters became the new principle and completely changed the way things were being done. New teachers were hired and the old inadequate ones were fired. Higher expectations were set into place and the new teachers were there when the students were in need of help. If students succeeded they were rewarded with various awards; and if students failed they were punished, the privileges that students valued where revoked. I attended Bruce Randolph when it was re-opened, I found it easy to become successful due to the fact that my teachers believed in me and provided me with the support I needed to get straight A’s and master all subjects. Countless Students are living up to their potential at Bruce Randolph because of the positive learning environment and teachers that work hard to educate and support them.

The turnaround that has taken place at Bruce Randolph can happen at any other school regardless of where it might be. This can only happen if the environment is completely changed in which students are receiving their education. A change of teaching staff will need to be made. The new teachers hired will need to support and care about their students succeeding. Along with higher expectations set into place success is obtainable. By changing the environment in schools will result in many great things such as higher graduation rates, test scores etc... And the students graduating will have a high quality education. Furthermore these students will become successful and go off to college and obtain a higher education resulting in fulfilling careers. Properly educating all will change America and the world.


Essay 4

Meliza Griego


Challenge Denver Competition:

What is one thing that would help you feel more successful in school?

The one thing that would help me feel more successful in school is the students; we need to come together as a community. We can all benefit from each other’s resources when we need support and guidance. We all need to work together as a collaborative team and treat each other with respect. We all need to come together to reach our goal to graduate. We are all here for the same things; trying to get out of school and move on go to college, be successful, and have a good job in the future. We are not here to start wars; we are here to get an education.

If students receive more support and guidance in school from their fellow students, we are more likely to succeed in school. Because we have people there pushing us and encouraging us to be better than we already are we are more likely to reach our goals. We will teach one another and therefore achieve more than we are capable of doing ourselves.

Once I am motivated to reach my goals, I can lead my peers on a better pathway to success. If they attain their goals they are sure to make a better outcome for themselves. They will need to channel their self-control to accomplish that desire of reaching the top. To motivate them once you motivated yourself is to encourage them by showing them you believe in their abilities.

In the school community we should take the actions that I’m describing because how are we going to change when you’re doing absolutely nothing about it. We have to do our part if we want changes in the community of the school. Nobody’s going to help you make those changes if you don’t give out your helping hand.

Over the past few months, my beliefs have changed on this subject, due to personal experiences. I have let my guard down to the wrong people and now I’m more protective of who to trust to show me the light to the right path. I’ve been led on the wrong path but I have always found my way back. Now I’m on the right path trying to graduate and have a better life then I already have.

Essay 5

 Mike Plymell 

Denver School of the Arts

A good thesis statement usually starts a piece with a time and place, and then goes on to answer a prompt and gives examples. I’m going to be a rebel and put something completely ridiculous as my starting sentence, because I’ve got news for you: this piece has nothing to do with thesis statements. Education is all wrong right now. Most teachers expect us to sit at desks and listen to them drone on for an hour and a half, or lay like corpses in front of dry, outdated textbooks, reading about one old white man who killed another, or wrote something on an ancient piece of paper. Many teachers are exceptions, of course, but I’d say the boring ones make up the majority of the district educators, and they’re the reason why kids drop out of high school. Classrooms need to become more hands-on and more interactive. I think this would help kids get more involved in each and every one of their classes, and school might actually turn into something they look forward to. 

Just a thought. Spread the word.

Unknown user,
Nov 21, 2011, 8:51 AM