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At Recently Awarded South High, Students No Longer 'Exploit Their Comfort Zone'

DENVER (CBS4) -Two Colorado schools are among eight in the country that are being recognized for outstanding work with students.

Denver South High School (credit: CBS)

Denver South High School and William C Hinkley High School in Aurora were designated as Schools of Opportunity by the National Education Policy Center. Denver South got the Gold recognition, while Hinkley got the Silver.

Each of the schools chosen had to meet certain criteria showing the work they've done to help bridge the opportunity gaps their students face.


CBS4 found out this week that at South High School, students aren't just beating the odds -- they're changing them.

Of the 1,600 students enrolled, more than half are students of color. A year ago, only 73 of them were taking AP or honors classes.

"That was a problem. That shouldn't be the case," said student Sara Gebretsadik.

Gebretsadik is one of the founding members of a student organizaton known as the Rising Rebels whose stated purpose is to fix that.

"We enabled kids to exploit their comfort zone," said Isaiah Colbert, another Rising Rebels founder.

(credit: CBS)

"But after a year's work with Rising Rebels, we had more than 400 (enrolled in AP or honors classes) -- I believe the exact number is 424," Gebretsadik said.

The Rising Rebels helped the school land the Gold award.

Teacher Hayley Breden applied for the award.

"There really wasn't a debate in my mind whether this would be a good idea or not because if we're not offering kids as many opportunities as we can then what are we doing here?"

Denver South High School
Denver South High School (credit: CBS)

The Schools of Opportunity website has a feature page on Denver South that applauds the school's approach:

All of South's teachers are currently (or soon will be) certified to teach English Language Learners, and the school is staffed with paraprofessionals and translators to support students and families. To encourage parent involvement, teachers and administrators make home visits to all incoming ninth-grade families.

"I think a lot of (teachers) don't call it work they just call it school, because we are all here learning together," Breden said.

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