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Human Rights Awareness Week provides learning opportunity for Ponderosa students

PARKER – This week students at Ponderosa High School will have the opportunity to listen to and meet survivors from various atrocities in human history. The learning opportunity is part of a weeklong school-sponsored Human Rights Awareness Week, which aims at educating students about problems facing our world, as well actions they can take to help.

“We try to find different people every year,” explained Ponderosa Social Studies Teacher Mark Thorsen. “This year we have a panel of survivors from different genocides from Bosnia, the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We’ve never had that sort of opportunity before.”

Thorsen is one of three staff members who started the Human Rights Awareness Week at Ponderosa six years ago.

”In conversation with our kids in our classrooms there seemed to be a lack of knowledge about some of the problems that are faced around the world and about human rights in general,” Thorsen said.

During the past six years, Thorsen has worked to bring in a variety of guests to Ponderosa to share global concerns and to spark thoughtful, civil conversations.

“It’s different when they’re hear and you can ask questions, compared to seeing a YouTube video of [the guest’s] experience,” Thorsen said. “Ultimately if we can pique the students’ interest and they want to learn more, it gives them empowerment and an opportunity to do something in action that they may not have had otherwise.”

Action is a big part of the event.

“That’s one of the requests we make is that they have something tangible that kids can do right now to make a difference,” Thorsen said.

Thorsen says, in this Information Age, many people, including students, feel helpless. Through this event, he tries to show the students that today, more than ever, thy have the tools they need to make change happen.

“Ultimately, it’s really this is the first generation with the resources to make a significant difference, because they can communicate in ways that was never imagined a decade ago,” Thorsen said. “It’s about helping them to understanding the tools that they have at their disposal.”

For example, last year Ponderosa worked with featured organization Optimus Youth to raise money for construction of a school in Mozambique. So far they’ve gathered nearly $6,000–enough to build one of the eight classrooms needed.

The week's activities culminate Thursday and Friday, September 12 and 13. On Thursday the school will host Holocaust survivor Eric Cahn and a panel with survivors of genocide. Friday will feature a presentation regarding Optimus Youth. Parents and community members are welcome to attend either session. Both are scheduled from 9:20 to 10:20 a.m.

Thorsen says it’s impossible to know the true impact that the event is having, in part because some students don’t choose to become active until years after they graduate from Ponderosa.

“You just have to trust that you are providing good opportunities for students to engage,” Thorsen said.

Follow this link for a full schedule of this year's events.

November 14, 2013 | By rmbarber | Category:

District News

graduates standing in line outside, smiling

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Graduation rates in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) continue to climb. Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) shows the on-time, four-year graduation rate is now 90.4 percent.

DCSD students also made an impressive showing at graduation. The class of 2017 earned more than $82 million in scholarships.

DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver metro area. According to CDE, DCSD graduation rates have risen steadily from 81.9 percent in 2009 to 90.4 percent in 2017.

Five female students standing on stage smiling and laughing at the awards ceremony

The top two-percent of female athletes in Douglas County School District (DCSD) were honored at the annual Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon last week at Chaparral High School. This year represented the 30th national celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day, created to encourage and promote the participation of girls in athletics. The girls who were honored were selected by their school’s coaches, athletic directors and principals for their outstanding achievements.

Superintendent Search text based logo

Working through the recent winter break, the Douglas County School District Board of Education has kicked off its search for DCSD’s next permanent superintendent. Following a thorough vetting of potential search firms, Ray & Associates (no relation to Board Director David Ray) has been hired to conduct the national search. The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board's budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences.