Stand for Children Colorado advances educational equity and racial justice in Colorado through meaningful partnerships with families, educators, schools, and policymakers. One of the ways we uphold this work is through our annual Advocacy Fellowship.   

Stand for Children Colorado Advocacy Fellows are community leaders advocating for policy solutions towards racial justice and equity in education.  With the support of Stand staff, advocacy fellows will deep dive into issues affecting Colorado communities today, co-create solutions, democratize knowledge back to their communities, work to break down barriers to power and access decision makers, and, in the process, build long-lasting relationships and invaluable skills. 

We are excited to introduce the 2023–2024 Fellows!  

Meet Lorelei

  • What are you most excited about in this year’s fellowship? I am most excited to continue working with Stand members to get a better understanding of Colorado Law processes and procedures, as well as learning more about communication efforts regarding outreach and support for legislation.

  •   What is your favorite children’s book? My favorite children’s book is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. I loved butterflies when I was younger. I even had a Monarch Butterfly Habitat that I was obsessed with, spurred on by this book. 

  • What do you love most about Colorado? I love that city life is just a hop, skip, or jump away from the mountains. It is nice to have the great outdoors and mountain activities so close to my house without having to live in the mountains full time. I get the amenities of a city with the joy and adventure of the outdoors in one location.

As a Stand fellow, I have been able to gain insight on how the Stand team works with the community to ensure that the policies they advocate for are ones that make schools and the overall community a more equitable and just environment.  I appreciate that Stand has been a conduit for advancing policies that families and educators have input on.

As a recent graduate of a master’s in social work, I have witnessed the shift within the Colorado education system to include a focus on a holistic approach where physical and mental health is seen as a crucial component of child development. I understand the intersectionality of issues and inequities our education and court system play, thus I am excited to tell you more about what the team has set out to accomplish this year.

In the upcoming school year and legislative session, Stand is prioritizing work that will: 

  • Early Literacy | Understand need so we can better support educators to use the science of reading and evidence-based curriculums and practices in their literacy instruction. 
  • High School Success | Expand funding for the Ninth Grade On-Track grant program, to see continued growth and improvement in on-time high school graduations 
  • Justice System Reform | Help prevent recidivism in our justice system by updating probation and parole supervision to include remote check-in options and expanding access/increase eligibility for criminal record sealing
  • Justice System Reform | Reduce unjust fees for incarcerated individuals and their families. 
  • Supportive Schools Promote educator diversity by securing continued funding for policies that create equity in teacher preparation and alternative pathways to enter the workforce.
  • Supportive Schools | Continue the work for the Language Justice policy of Denver Public Schools to be fully realized in school buildings 
  • Supportive Schools | Promote community engagement and participation in the creation of a transparent and informative dashboard in Denver Public Schools

Each time that I’ve participated in legislative sessions, I feel well supported and the folks at Stand make the process much less intimidating. So, I encourage you to learn more about the work that interests you the most, by filling out this form. I hope to work with you as we fight for educational and youth justice in our community.  

Pamela Kaspar
Pamela Kaspar

Advocacy Fellow

This week a dozen parents, educators and community leaders joined our team for a day at the Capitol. These advocates were briefed on the latest on key policy moving through the Capitol, listened to Senate floor debate (and were even invited to sit on the Senate floor), got a tour of the Capitol and shared their policy priorities.

Here are some of the reflections that those that joined us shared about why it is important for them to be involved in advocacy at the state level.

“I am very fortunate to be here today with Stand. For many years, I have involved myself into the practices and policies of schools but I’ve never really had the opportunity to dive in and really make a difference at in the policies that are implemented at the state level. This is really what we need in order to be able to make the changes for our kids.”  Flor Orozco, parent and Stand Advocacy Fellow

“I’ve been working with Stand as a fellow and it has invited me to take up space in politics that I never really thought I belonged in or never knew the right entry point. Now because of this I fee inspired to do more community organizing to find ways that I can advocate not only for students but also for members of the queer community, and BIPOC voices. I believe that Stand is doing some incredible work.” Lauren Kinney, educator and Stand Advocacy Fellow  

“It was important for me to be here today to make sure that our representative know our priorities, take them seriously and address them in meaningful ways.” Tom Pipal, community advocate

If you don’t already, please follow us on Instagram (@standcolorado) to see more about Stand’s Day at the Capitol and for the latest updates on our policy priorities.

Colorado’s 2023 Legislative Session is in Full Swing 

At Stand for Children Colorado, we advocate for policy solutions in the areas of early literacy, high school success, diversifying and supporting the teacher workforce and safe and supportive schools and communities. This session we are proud to be championing and supporting key bills to support Colorado’s students, educators, and families.    

This session, we are prioritizing policies to: 

  • Expand funding for the Ninth Grade On-Track and Expelled and At-Risk Student Services (EARSS) grant programs. 
  • Expand and diversify the educator workforce. 
  • Fight for equitable school funding. 
  • Create protections for juveniles through interrogation and detention reforms
  • Update probation and parole supervision to include remote check-in options and early release for education credits earned. 
  • Create access to free phone calls from prison or jail. 

Centering Parent, Educator and Community Voice at the Capitol 

At Stand Colorado, we deeply believe that policy making is most effective when the voices of those impacted are at the center of decision making. That’s why we support parent, educator, and community advocates to share their testimonies with lawmakers during Senate and House committee meetings. We’re sharing a few of those testimonies here:  

Let’s provide mental health assessments for students | parent and Stand Community Organizer, Natalie Perez, testifies in support of HB23-1003, School Mental Health Assessment.  

Young people are especially vulnerable to falsely confessing under the pressure of deception | community leader, Lindsay Saunders-Velez, testifies in support of HB23- 1042, Admissibility Standards For Juvenile Statements.   We cannot afford not to invest in our education workforce | Colorado educator, Anthony Abel-Pype testifies in support of HB23-1001, Expanding Assistance For Educator Programs. 

Expanding and Diversifying Colorado’s Educator Workforce 

Stand Colorado has championed efforts to develop and pass, and now continue to advocate for, innovative policy solutions to address financial and other barriers to educators entering the workforce to ensure an expanded and more diverse educator workforce, which is critical for all of Colorado’s students to experience just and supportive schools.  

In 2023, we are support three key bills to remove barriers and expand and diversify the teacher pipeline in Colorado – HB23-1001 Expanding Assistance For Educator Programs, SB23-087 Teacher Degree Apprenticeship Program, and HB23-1064 Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact.  Learn more here

The 9th Grade Approach: A CHSS Showcase 

This January, we hosted a virtual event, The 9th Grade Approach: A CHSS Showcase in partnership with Colorado’s Center for High School Success (CHSS), a project of Stand for Children. Educators, lawmakers, and community members joined us to learn about the research driving the 9th Grade Success model, coaching and support CHSS provides in Colorado’s schools, and demonstrated student outcomes in the 2021-22 school year.

Yaeel Duarte, Stand Advocacy Fellow, testifies in support of HB23-1042 

“I cannot imagine the powerlessness parents might feel to know that their children could be in a position where an adult in power could be using dishonest tactics to drive them into confessing something false. Nobody, including adults, can think clearly about future consequences under such pressure.”   

Learn More

Anthony Abel-Pype, Colorado Educator, testifies in support of HB23-1001 

“Bills that can offer incentives, financial and otherwise, for people in general, and people of color in particular, to choose a career path in education, and to stick with it, will go a long way to improving student outcomes in the state of Colorado.”  

 Learn More

Stand up for Language Justice 

We are working to expand the practice of Language Justice in Colorado and we want to hear from you! Please take a few minutes to tell us about your experience with language justice in your school district. We will be sharing what we heard with district leadership. Complete our survey here

Thank you for Standing

High School Students With Teacher In Class Using Laptops Smiling

Today the House Education Committee heard HB23-1109, School Policies And Student Conduct.  This is a bill that promotes restorative practices, ensures reduced legal system involvement, fosters fairness in a system that otherwise considers students guilty until proven innocent, and creates accountability for unregulated and untrained expulsion hearing officers. Lauren Kinney, school counselor and Stand Advocacy Fellow prepared testimony in support of HB23-1109 that was read during the hearing by government affairs director, Bri Buentello. Below are those remarks.

“My name is Lauren Kinney and I am asking you to support HB23-1109. As a high school counselor, I am forced to witness and triage the fallout of failed exclusionary discipline on practically a daily basis. The amount of time I spend responding to frustrated teachers, admin hell-bent on maintaining the status quo of zero-tolerance policies, exhausted parents, and students that are starved for connection and struggling to cope with the trauma of a pandemic.  

Students need services, kindness, respect, and to be taught the Colorado Essential Skills (Empowered Individual, Communicator, Problem Solver, and Community Member). We have local and national data warning us for decades about the unintended consequences of even a single failed class or suspension on graduation rates and the likelihood of entering the criminal justice system. 

  • We know that one suspension in ninth grade doubles the risk of failing classes and increases the risk of dropping out by 20% (Mallett, 2016). 
  • Students that fail one or more classes during their freshman year only have a 14% likelihood of graduating on time with their peers (ASCA, 2019). 

If you explore the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection website, you will see that regardless of the county in Colorado, our marginalized students are disproportionately impacted by these antiquated systems.  

Our best, most obvious solution is to focus on Restorative Justice Practices focused on addressing the harm done to individual and community stakeholders while focusing heavily on the rehabilitation of the perpetrator. There is  significant evidence that RJP can improve student misbehavior, minimize exclusionary discipline, reduce discipline gaps related to race and disabilities, and have a positive impact on the students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the safety and pro-social climate of the schools.  

Because you all have the advantage of using your fully-formed adult brains, I urge you to consider the long-term unintended consequences of our children’s behaviors that their underdeveloped brains cannot.”  

Pamela and her son Tristan in the Colorado state Capitol.

On April 21, the House Education Committee passed HB22-1376 Supportive Learning Environments for K-12 Students on a 6-3 vote. This bill makes several updates to Colorado’s policies and practices to improve school climate for students including increasing funding for the successful Expelled and At-Risk Student Services Grant, updating restraint and seclusion policies and ending practices that have been shown to harm students, requiring better data collection on disciplinary incidents and indicators of school climate and promoting best practices and proper training for school security staff. Parent, community leader, and Stand Advocacy Fellow, Pamela, delivered her testimony in support of the bill.

My name is Pamela Kaspar, I am a District 1 resident, a social work scholar, and a parent. I’m speaking in favor of House Bill 1376.   

With me today is my brilliant and talented son, Tristan, who is 11. Tristan had a rough start in his journey in public schools. We had just moved back to Colorado from Virginia, and in order for me to continue my education and save money, we were living with my parents. These types of life transitions can be challenging even for adults, but are especially more so for young children.   

Tristan lagged in his verbal communication skills; as you can imagine, it was incredibly frustrating for him as he tried to communicate with the world around him.  The school he attended showed little interest in offering any support for my son’s communication or behavioral needs, much less his social and emotional wellbeing.  As his mother, I knew that he was acting out because he was feeling scared, but his school saw an angry, problem child. He was repeatedly sent home from school, moved from one class to another and often in the principal’s office. I had to advocate on behalf of my son to have him see a counselor, it was never offered by the school. We qualified for assistance with a child therapist through the University of Denver, and my son began seeing them. This was all research and work that we had to do on our own with really no great idea of where to begin.   

The decision to change schools finally came when Tristan was once again sent home after crying while in class. I was at work that day, so my mother offered to pick him up. She insisted that his suspension and all prior suspensions be documented for her. As it turns out, the school had not been documenting when he was sent home and why. If that documentation had been provided for us, it would have painted a very grim picture of what the school’s discipline policy looked like, and perhaps have helped my son get the support he needed earlier. 

I’m sharing this experience with you all to illustrate the need for legislation like this. There is a need for a holistic approach to education, where the wellbeing and growth of teachers, caregivers, support staff and scholars are just as important as standardized test scores. Caregivers need resources to assist with addressing problematic behaviors, and as numerous studies have shown, the emotional quotient is as imperative as an intelligence quotient.  

Let’s support our kids like Tristian. Please vote yes on House Bill 1376.  

On March 31, the Senate Education Committee passed HB22-1295 Department Early Childhood And Universal Preschool Program on a 5-2 vote. This bill takes several steps to address the existing challenges faced by families and providers, including strengthening Colorado’s early childhood infrastructure, developing a single application for families to access all publicly funded early education services, and better supporting our early childhood workforce. Parent, community leader, and Stand Advocacy Fellow, Jesse, delivered her testimony in support of the bill.

My name is Jesse Rula and I am a DPS employee for the Career and College Success Department. I am also the mother to 3 sons who were all fortunate enough to attend preschool for free. I know personally how important preschool is for children and their early childhood development. My middle child has a significant learning disability and struggles socially and emotionally.  

We were concerned about how he would adjust when entering school but were able to get him into the Head Start Program. We were fortunate enough to have him attend 2 yrs in a row and I am so grateful for that experience. My son was able to learn all the things he needed to enter kindergarten and be successful. Despite being very shy and struggling in social settings the staff took such a patient and caring approach to getting him used to the classroom and socializing with his peers.  

While I appreciate all the other academic things he learned such as his colors, numbers, and letters it was so much more than that. He learned how to navigate his classroom, how to advocate for himself, and how to socialize with his peers. It made the transition into kindergarten so much easier. So many families are in need of this kind of exposure and education for their children. So many could benefit from being able to access pre-k and start their child off on the right path.  

Being able to have a streamlined approach to accessing quality preschools that are affordable, is so crucial for all families with young children. This is especially true for families that are struggling just to put food on the table. Families who can’t afford to put their child in an expensive preschool and don’t have the time to try to navigate a complicated and confusing system to access preschool.  

All children have the right to start off life with the best chance possible. Research has shown how important preschool is for giving children a strong foundation in school and setting them up for future success. It had such a positive effect on my son and I want all families to experience that. Not only does it benefit these families but it benefits society as a whole. Getting children set up for success early on is one of the best ways to ensure future success, which benefits us all.  I respectfully ask for your ‘yes’ vote on House Bill 22-1295.

On March 31, the Senate Education Committee passed HB22-1295 Department Early Childhood And Universal Preschool Program on a 5-2 vote. This bill takes several steps to address the existing challenges faced by families and providers, including strengthening Colorado’s early childhood infrastructure, developing a single application for families to access all publicly funded early education services, and better supporting our early childhood workforce. Parent, community leader, and Stand Advocacy Fellow, Yaeel, delivered her testimony in support of the bill.

English below

Mi nombre es Yaeel Duarte y soy Fellow de la organización de Stand for Children hace ya dos años. Estoy aqui para dar tetstimonio a favor de el projecto de ley HB 22 – 1295.  

La razón por la que estoy dando testimonio   a favor  de esta propuesta, es  porque quiero asegurarme que la comunidad a la que sirvo tenga la informacion necesaria para facilitar la educación temprana de sus hijos. 

 Considero que las leyes actuales  No han beneficiado al máximo a la comunidad de habla espanol por varios factores por supuesto el primero es el factor socioeconómico el cual impide en la mayoría de los casos el que los padres se involucren en la educación de sus hijos,  otro factor igual de importante es el del conocimiento, aunque existen ciertas estrategias para pasar el mensaje de inscripción en este caso No siempre son las más efectivas algo que erra el sistema escolar es deducir que el nivel de aprendizaje de los padres es el mismo en todas las culturas y No es así. 

Muchos de estos padres se rinden al momento de buscar opciones para sus hijos en etapa preescolar No solo por el idioma si no también por No tener suficiente apoyo tanto con informacion como con el proceso en general de dicha inscripción, que para variar el personal de las escuelas lo hacen más complicado de varias formas, y es  por eso es que existe ”La Sra que me cuida a mi hijo” porque prefirió pagar menos y prefirió ir con alguien  que le entiende y No le pide tooodos los requisitos que le pide el sistema actual. 

Las consecuencias de esto Son niños analfabetos bajos en vocabulario y por ende bajos en Lectura y Escritura, lo que conlleva a esta famosa brecha académica en los niños.  

El pasar esta Ley le ofrece  herramientas a los padres de hacer hijos independientes y les dará la seguridad de tener éxito académico en el futuro. 

My name is Yaeel Duarte and I am a returning Fellow of the Stand for Children. I am here today to give testimony in favor of House Bill 1295, universal pre-school. I am testifying in favor of this bill in part because I want to ensure the Spanish-speaking community weighs in on this proposed public policy, they deserve to have the information they need to facilitate their children’s early education. I believe that the current practices regarding pre-school  have led to opportunity disparities for Spanish-speaking families for several reasons. The most obvious factor is affordability, which disproportionately punishes single income/low-income families, particularly Latinas as statistically they are more likely to stay at home and save the money than almost any other demographic.  In most cases, these same low socio-economic families are also less likely to get involved in the education of their children. In addition to the obvious language barrier, there is also a lack of access and policy knowledge, although there are certain strategies to pass the registration message in this case. They are not always the most effective. Sometimes we also forget to see how parents have quite different education levels and can help their kids differently at home. They rely on pre-k to give those supports. 

Many of these parents give up when looking for options for their children in the preschool stage, not only because of the language, but also because they do not have enough support both with information and with the registration process. The consequences of this lack of academic access are children with low vocabulary and therefore struggle in Reading and Writing, leading to one of the most notable academic achievement gaps in Colorado schools. 

Passing this Law would help ensure early success for children and more academic options for parents, please vote yes on HB-1295.  

On March 2, 2022, the House Education Committee heard House Bill 22-1220, which will remove barriers to support teacher candidates entering the workforce. The bill passed on a 8-1 vote and now will be heard in the Appropriations Committee. During the hearing educators shared their passion removing educator barriers to increase teacher diversity. We are excited to share their testimony in support of increased teacher diversity and House Bill 22-1220.

As I wrapped up an intervention session one afternoon last spring one of my students, a young Black boy, casually mentioned that he thought he might make a good teacher.  

“You would absolutely make a great teacher, Jonathon!”, I replied.  

“Too bad”, he said, disappointedly. 

“Too bad what?” 

“Don’t you have to be a white lady to be a teacher?” 

Why, in 2021, would a child assume one has to be a “white lady” to be a teacher? For Jonathan, it’s because nearly every teacher he has seen in his school career is a white female. The traditional pathways to teaching are creating artificial barriers to BIPOC teacher candidates from entering the profession in greater numbers. Just as an SAT score doesn’t give a complete picture of the true merit or potential of a future college student, a great teacher is so much more than a passing PRAXIS score; multiple options for demonstrating competency are essential to creating a diverse pool of teachers.  

Unpaid student teaching is another barrier that reduces the diversity of the teaching force, requiring some students to take on second and third jobs in their attempts to satisfy the requirements of their programs. The financial burden is just too great. Addressing these issues would remove some of the barriers that are keeping Colorado schools from diversifying their teaching staff. For Jonathon and other Black and Brown students who might have the same misconceptions about what pathways are available to them in the future, it removes barriers to dreams. 

We need more teachers. We need teachers that reflect the myriad diversities of our students. Please support HB22-1220 and let the diverse teacher candidates of today show the Jonathons of tomorrow what is possible.