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News: League News

Q&A with DSST Alumna

Thursday, May 16, 2019  
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Ben Lindquist, President of the Colorado League of Charter Schools had the opportunity to meet with Jehovana Flores, an alumna of DSST Stapleton. In this Q&A, you will learn more about the powerful impact that a charter school, DSST, had and is continuing to have on Jehovana's life opportunity and trajectory. This testimonial is one that Denver school board candidates and voters should consider as they determine whether or not Denver Public Schools continues to support education reform beyond 2019.


BL: Tell us a little about yourself.


JF: I was two years old when I came to America from Aguascalientes, Mexico. My parents had hope of helping us pursue the American Dream. Colorado became my home. I attended my neighborhood schools in Denver; Oakland Elementary and Florida Pitt Waller. In high school, I attended Denver School of Science and Technology in Stapleton. It was the first time I went to school away from my neighborhood, but it was the start of something greater. There, I became a leader, a first-generation college graduate, a Dreamer, and me -- Jehovana Flores.


BL: What was your family and home life like growing up? What made it challenging or easy for you and your family members?


JF: My voice is the offspring of two countries colliding. Growing up, I had an accent that reflected my challenges with the English tongue. While things at school were challenging, at home, it was the struggle of making ends meet. However, my parents left their country, their dreams, sacrificing everything, so that I can dream. It is worth carrying two worlds.


BL: What years did you attend DSST Stapleton and what was the experience like?


JF: DSST Stapleton was not a school in my neighborhood, but I was intrigued by the school’s luxury of laptops so decided to apply. Through the choice system lottery, I received my golden ticket and began my freshman year in 2010. DSST is a public charter school. Because DSST wasn’t my neighborhood school, I woke up early every morning to use public transportation to get to school. Despite the obstacles…I graduated in 2014. That year, DSST Stapleton was ranked the number one high school in Colorado. The golden ticket was truly life-changing.


BL: How did you do at DSST? How did the experience affect you?


JF: Attending DSST became an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. The first half of my high school career, I had envisioned school to be fun and reckless. While I was completely wrong, my performance academically and behaviorally reflected that mindset. I struggled to fit in, didn’t get involved, and lost myself. I was convinced that I was not a good fit…and considered switching schools. After I proceeded to request transfers to a new school, my advisor at DSST suggested we sit and talk about my decision. It was the first time I allowed myself to realize that I was in good hands. They saw potential in me that I struggled to see in myself. My advisor convinced me to give it another chance, but to do it differently this time around. I followed her advice and the second half of my high school career was life-changing. I came to find my true potential as a leader, a teammate, an advocate, a learner and a dreamer. The opportunities that were available to me at DSST led me to learn about more about myself and my aspirations in life. Everyone at DSST helped me believe in myself and push myself to be a better me. That was the biggest takeaway.


BL: What is your mother’s view of your education?


JF: While at first, my mom was not supportive of me attending a school far away from my neighborhood due to the inconvenience, she did not stop me from going. As I continued excelling through my high school career at DSST, my mom began to notice the different pathways my older sister and I were heading. My mom was concerned that my sister, who attended our neighborhood high school, was not receiving the same quality support and education. My mom became convinced that my siblings should attend DSST because of the opportunity to receive a better education and future.


BL: What have you done since you graduated from DSST?


JF: As a first-generation student and DACA recipient, I became the first in my family to earn a college degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology/Criminalistics. During my college career at MSU Denver, I learned the importance of building lasting professional relationships. My willingness to get out of my comfort zone was one thing that DSST helped me with. “A comfort zone is a beautiful thing – but nothing ever grows there,” unknown author. This has given me the chance to be a committee member on the Denver Scholarship Foundation and a peer leader in leadership programs within my community. I have the desire to succeed in demonstrating my dedication to shared values, producing quality work and being a good role model. While I had other plans to attend law school, I came to realize my true calling to pursue entrepreneurship in the fashion and beauty industry.


BL: What do you want our readers to know about DSST?


JF: To sacrifice something now means there’s something greater. I went into high school thinking it was supposed to be fun and it can be, but business first. What you work on now will reflect later. DSST is a school that taught me more about just school work. It taught me about the importance of my future. DSST is a place where you are not just a number, not just a troubled student, not just a minor, but someone with the potential to be who you are meant to be. DSST is the difference we want to see in our education system.


BL: What does public education need to deliver for children and youth growing up in similar conditions to those that you grew up in?


JF: The most important thing that needs to be delivered for children and youth growing up in any condition is quality support and consistency. Kids who grow up facing challenges at home are students who need that extra support. The biggest thing for me was that my school helped me believe in myself and my potential to be better. That is what other kids need too -- someone to believe in them. Public education has its challenges such as rationing teachers per students. As a result, the more students a teacher is having to teach, the less quality support and education that student receives. Public education needs to be the change that children need; a place where someone is always there for them. In this world, no matter your story, anything is possible with the right tools.


BL: Why do you think that there is so much controversy around charter school growth in Denver right now?


JF: People are comfortable where they are and it becomes a habitual cycle. The controversy around charter schools is that people are concerned that their community’s schools of generational history might be coming to an end. What matters is that children are given the chance to attend a school that will benefit them without having to go to other neighborhoods. While the answer is not to out-rule the community’s neighborhood schools, the growth of charter schools is positive so that parents continue to have options for their children. A school with a strong education system…will help students perform their best academically and behaviorally. A school that will provide quality support and education will change students’ future.