This past Friday, Earth Day, I was reminded of why I am running for mayor. I spent some time with middle school students at La Academia, a school for at-risk kids near the Baker neighborhood of Denver. We talked about overcoming obstacles, the environment, and why working hard in school is important. Then we split into Team Trash and Team Recycling and went on a neighborhood cleanup, something these kids do regularly, not just for Earth Day.
Those middle schoolers, who believe in themselves and are succeeding against the odds, inspire me and should inspire all of us. Their life situations are all different and all difficult, yet they refuse to give up. They are determined.
They are why for the past 22 years I have fought to see all of Denver's children succeed, from the I Have A Dream Foundation to the New America Schools to my time in the legislature. Those kids are why I see a brighter future for our city, because they will help build it.
I have made education a centerpiece of my campaign because it's not just about policy. It comes from my heart -- we simply must give our kids more opportunities through improving our schools in Denver. A graduation rate of 53% is not acceptable, nor can we build a 21st century economy upon it.
Ten years ago, when I was board chair of the Colorado Children's Campaign, former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy and I worked to pass Amendment 23, guaranteeing, for the first time, needed resources for Colorado's kids in K-12 schools.
That's one of the reasons Cary endorsed me for mayor. She and I have been friends and allies in the fight to improve education in Colorado -- she knows that I will always stand up for Denver's kids.
And I will stand up for Denver's kids even when the choices are tough and the decisions aren't popular. I have always supported the Far Northeast turnaround plan, because we needed a change to do right by our students. We had to improve reading proficiency and math skills for kids in northeast Denver; we had to give all families access to high quality schools and we had to be firm in our commitment to improve education, no matter the politics.
Denver's future depends on building a 21st century education system -- we must have schools that give every child in Denver the opportunity to attain an excellent education. Improving Denver's schools will be one of my top priorities as mayor, just as it has been for the past two decades.
I will always stand up for Denver's kids. And every time I do, I will think of those children at La Academia.
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