• Friendships Make Everything Better

    Posted by Devra Ashby on 11/8/2022 11:00:00 AM

    Taking a trip down memory lane, this story may remind some of the nervous excitement they felt when starting middle school or what some remember as junior high school. Knowing you’ll soon begin a new journey in a big school filled with people you know, and many you don’t know, can certainly get the adrenaline flowing! Those feelings are where we begin this D11 story.

    When Raelyn, a new 6th-grader at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, started at Jenkins Middle School last year, she worried that she wouldn’t have any friends. That was until she met Jaycen. Jaycen, at the time, was also a 6th grader. Jaycen ultimately became Raelyn’s best friend, and now that the two of them are 7th graders, they seem to finish each other's sentences!

    Their principal, Mr. Jackowski, says developing friendships in middle school is key to a successful transition from elementary to middle school. “That’s why I encourage kids to get involved in clubs and activities to build that sense of belonging.”  


    Sharing the same likes, such as chocolate ice cream and their favorite gaming app, these two students have supported each other during difficult times. They even share a birthday! Raelyn says, “the most important reason he became my friend is that he likes me for who I am, and I get to be myself around him. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.” This is an important lesson for us all!  



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  • To Protect and Serve: The story of one excellent D11 security guard

    Posted by Devra Ashby on 8/25/2022 7:00:00 AM

    Walking into the Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus, you may have the pleasure of being greeted by Omar Gul Stanekzai. Although relatively new to the D11 family, Omar flashes a bright smile and welcomes you with a warm greeting. He will tell you it is an honor to serve as a D11 security guard, helping protect students and adults in his school. But it really is our honor to have someone like Omar in our school because, you see, Omar’s journey to this point has been quite phenomenal.

    Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Omar graduated from high school in 2008 and joined the Afghan Air Force, receiving helicopter engineering and mechanical training from Mongolian instructors. Out of 46 students, he received top honors and wowed his trainers. Working his way up through the ranks, Omar soon became a supervisor of other helicopter mechanics, continuing to gain recognition for his outstanding work. One day, his dream of becoming a pilot was about to come true. The Afghan Air Force Commander saw Omar’s dedication and sent him to officer training, where he  graduated as 2nd Lieutenant.

    Omar qualified and received a pilot scholarship, which provided him the opportunity to come to the United States and attend the Defense Language Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and the United States Army Aviation Training Center at Fort Rucker Army Post in Alabama. He received training on three different types of helicopters and put that training to use when he returned home to Afghanistan. From there, he went on to fly many combat missions, saving lives and serving his country. Working “shoulder by shoulder” with American NATO soldiers, Omar says they fought against terrorism for an opportunity for democracy and peace in Afghanistan.


    On August 14, 2021, when the United States military forces and diplomats pulled out of Afghanistan upon the President’s orders, the Taliban entered the Afghan capital of Kabul. Omar shared that this day was the darkest day of his life. He lost everything he worked so hard to achieve with his military career. He contacted his American friends and instructors and asked for help. Within days, he arrived in the United States and began the emigration process with his family at Virginia’s Quantico Marine Camp. There, he became the head representative for 6,500 Afghan refugees, receiving an award from a two-star general and a marine camp commander for his leadership.

    Omar, his wife, and his daughter fled Afghanistan and made Colorado Springs their new home on December 8, 2021. He still reflects on his military career with many memories, some great and some not so great. Omar says living in the United States allows his daughter to go to great schools and college. He says it will provide his wife the opportunity to receive career training. He is happy to see his family thrive here because, after all, “USA is the land of opportunity.”

    Thank you, Omar, for sharing your story, and we look forward to seeing the future chapters now that you are part of the D11 family!

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  • North Middle School Student Recognized for Heroic Actions During a Crisis

    Posted by Devra Ashby on 6/2/2022 7:00:00 AM

    Ignatius Barajas and Ms. Bricker
    Ms. Bricker is a social studies teacher at North Middle School. Earlier this school year, one of the students in Ms. Bricker’s class started having a seizure. While it is natural to freeze up during a medical crisis like this, one student jumped into action to help Ms. Bricker by alerting the front office, moving furniture and objects out of the way, and keeping the area clear so Ms. Bricker could assist the student seizing. That student was 7th grader Ignatius Barajas. Yesterday, the Interim Superintendent, Dr. Nicholas Gledich, and Board of Education Director, Julie Ott, presented Ignatius with a certificate of appreciation for his heroic actions and quick thinking.

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  • Holmes & Odyssey Early College and Career Options at FCCLA State Conference

    Posted by Devra Ashby on 4/20/2022 12:00:00 PM

    On April 14 – 16, 25 students participated in an inspiring weekend of competition, recognition, and leadership development for the Holmes & Odyssey Early College and Career Options FCCLA members who attended the 2022 Colorado FCCLA State Conference. The conference took place at the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel. Members had opportunities to engage in workshops and showcase the leadership skills they developed throughout the year.

    2022 FCCLA State Team

    Holmes Middle School had 11 students competing, while Odyssey ECCO FCCLA Chapter had 15 members experience all the conference activities. From state officers hosting attendees through all the general sessions, highlighting chapters for their advocacy of family and consumer sciences, to the outside speakers shared their leadership tips and hints, students were able to gain valuable leadership skills from this conference. 

    On Thursday, students experienced workshops and began competitions in over 43 competitive events. This year’s Colorado theme was FIND YOUR POWER. The students were challenged to find their own strength and traits within them to participate in the many opportunities the Ultimate Leadership Experience offers. The opening session brought all members, advisers, and guests to kick off this yearly conference. 

    Friday was filled with competitive events, a college expo and networking opportunities.

    The students, advisers and guests enjoyed a delicious banquet meal and state awards. Annie Friesema and Andrea Aragon, Odyssey ECCO FCCLA Advisers, both received the National FCCLA Mentor Adviser Award. Mrs. Friesema was also awarded the Colorado Outstanding District Consultant award. Kelly Gauck, the Holmes FCS (Family and Consumer Sciences) teacher received a 10-year adviser award. Holmes FCCLA Chapter won three awards; Community Service, Membership and received the Gold Merit chapter. 

    All the time and effort chapters put into competitive events paid off! Holmes’ members competed in seven events. On Saturday morning, the individual awards were announced. Each member received an FCCLA medal, gold, silver, or bronze. 

    The following Holmes MS members all won first place in their respective events:  Maverick McDonald in Career Investigation, Kaitlyn Deyoe in National Programs in Action, Campbell Riggs in Teach in Train, Elsie Walker in Nutrition & Wellness, Bryce McDonald, Sam Wilshusen & Jett Friesema together as a team in Sports Nutrition, Lillie Rice in Promote & Publicize FCCLA! Olivia White in Professional Presentation, Olivia Erlenbach in Chapter in Review Display. Kiley Romero earned a silver in her Chapter in Review Portfolio. Each student planned, prepared, and presented their STAR (Students Taking Action with Recognition) event using the FCCLA detailed rubrics. All competitors that place first or second qualify to attend the 2022 National FCCLA Leadership Conference held in beautiful San Diego, CA on June 28 - July 3. 

    2022 FCCLA State Team

    The following Odyssey ECCO FCCLA members in the Education & Training Pathway placed first in their events: Ava Friesema (Coronado) & Haley Cross (Palmer) in Focus on Children, Riley Walker, and Madeline Jonasen (Coronado) in Promote and Publicize, Makenzie Hartman (Coronado) in Teach & Train, Jordan Hamilton (Odyssey ECCO) in Career Investigation. Taiyah Mooney (Coronado) placed second in Say YES to FCS, and Brithany Garces (Odyssey ECCO) placed third in Career Investigation.  

    Odyssey ECCO FCCLA members in the Hospitality & Tourism Pathway received the following medals: Aidan Roberts (Achieve) and Canyon Sweum (Palmer) - silver in Culinary Arts, Kevin Moreno Silva (Palmer) and Olivia Schwarz (Bijou) - silver in Gourmet Food Presentation Savory, Emma Duran (Odyssey) – silver in Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation, and Wynter Kelley (Coronado) - bronze in Entrepreneurship. Olivia Vasquez (Bijou) served as a student judge for Gourmet Food Presentation Sweet.  

    2022 FCCLA State Team

    Colorado FCCLA is one of 52 state chapters of National Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America. FCCLA is a Career and Technical Student Organization focusing on family, career preparation, and leadership development. Colorado FCCLA started in 1946 and has grown to over 132 chapters with over 1,100 members. Participation with FCCLA including competitive events, chapter activities, and leadership opportunities can lead to a brighter future for all members. National FCCLA began in 1945 and is strong with over 165,000 members, making FCCLA one of the largest student organizations in the world. FCCLA is the Ultimate Leadership Experience. 

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  • Martinez Students’ Science Play Kicks Off 16-School Tour

    Posted by Devra Ashby on 4/5/2022 11:30:00 AM

    Trudy Ann is a doll who likes gumballs and catapults. Her best friend is a beach ball. And she’d do anything to escape the toy store! That’s the premise of “Push, Pull, Split, Spin,” a new science play by Martinez Elementary students.

    The show is touring D11 elementary schools for the next six weeks.

    Science to Stage

    Melissa O’Rear and Jen Lennon dreamed up Science to Stage last fall. “I love what happens when science and story collide,” Mrs. O’Rear says.

    Karl Heffernan and Annie Weaver welcomed Mrs. O’Rear into their classroom for three weeks. In one session, the fifth-graders wrote and performed infomercials advertising how simple machines make work easier. Another time, a guest speaker from Mad Science brought in cool gadgets to explore.

    Then the writing process began. The students brainstormed a setting, characters and plot. After deciding that Trudy Ann’s inventor fills his store with traps, the students had to design escape plans using simple machines. They also put actors on the Hot Seat, asking rapid-fire questions to help shape each character.

    Theatre Across Borders, Mrs. O’Rear’s theatre company, brought the students’ ideas to life with a script that showcases all six simple machines: lever, pulley, wheel and axle, inclined plane, wedge and screw.“We really encourage a ‘yes-and’ mindset,” Mrs. O’Rear says, “We wanted every student to see their unique contributions in the final script.”

    “It was the first play I had ever heard,” fifth-grader Victoria C. says, “and it’s the best story ever!”

    Hit the Road

    Once the script was complete, the actors only had 10 days to rehearse. Kate Hertz, Tracy Taylor and Sean Verdu had to memorize their lines and get comfortable using the play’s machines, including a catapult, seesaw, puppet stage and skateboard.

    “This show came together very quickly,” Sean Verdu says with a laugh.

    “Push, Pull, Split, Spin” had its big premiere on Monday, April 4, at Scott Elementary. They’ve still got 15 schools to go, plus four performances at the Millibo Art Theatre (April 23 and 30). Tickets to the Millibo shows are on sale at themat.org.

    “The cast has been amazing,” Mrs. O’Rear says, “Now we get to share this play with 1,400 students!”



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  • Palmer Athlete Scores Forever Family

    Posted by Devra Ashby on 4/1/2022 12:00:00 PM

    Alyssa Trujillo

    Alyssa Rodriguez-Trullijo may be known for finishing in the top 20 in the city for scoring during the Palmer high school girls basketball season, but she has a story that goes much deeper. You see, this Palmer junior was in the foster system for nearly a decade.

    “Right now, I should be in legal trouble," explains Rodriquez-Trujillo. "I shouldn't be doing well in school. I shouldn't be playing this sport. I kind of beat the odds. I did not grow up like any other teenage or little kid."

    Alyssa’s story started when her biological mom and dad lost custody of her and her two siblings due to neglect and addiction behaviors. Basketball became her lifeline. Leaning on her adult support system, she established a trusting relationship with her coach, Eric Trujillo. One day, Coach Trujillo got a call from Alyssa’s caseworker letting him know they would soon be moving her to another city.

    "So, my wife and I were like man if we can keep her here for a little bit - so temporally until they find her a permanent place in foster care. And then temporary - after a few weeks - turned into a couple of months, a couple of months turned into six months, six months turned into permanency placement, and then it turned into ‘we love this kid now’ and it just happened,” says Trujillo.

    In March of this year, Alyssa was adopted by Coach Trujillo and his family, making their home her permanent home. "I am just really excited to welcome Alyssa into our home and officially call you my daughter," added Mrs. Trujillo.

    So often we hear how D11 really is a family. In this case, that means so much more to Alyssa and the Trujillo family. #D11fam #D11Stories

    *Story adapted from and credited to Jake Gadon/KOAA News 5

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  • Biscuit the Therapy Dog

    Posted by Devra Ashby on 3/7/2022 12:00:00 PM


    My name is Biscuit and I have a job. I am an official therapy dog through Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD). My human mom practiced with me all types of silly requests such as sit, stay, and leave it while I was being bribed with small treats. I then had to prove I was willing to follow directions without the motivating treat (which wasn’t AS fun). After I easily passed the certification (I don’t understand why my human mom was so nervous), we had to focus on getting permission to visit my mom’s kindergarten class. Many conversations and permission slips later, I was introduced to a group of mostly giggly 5/6 year olds. It turns out these small humans leave many yummy crumbs around the room. And they seem love to pet me, read to me, and look at my ears. I am tough and just roll my eyes when they forget to be gentle or step on my tail. I get even by wagging my tail right in their face, which for some reason, most seem to think is funny. Some of the small humans were fearful of me, but I knew it was my job to show them how “chill” a big dog could be. Now they all fight to give me head or belly rubs. I don’t come everyday as its hard work. My body absorbs their “yucky” feelings and I need to be available when someone is having a tough time. I often snore after my hard day’s work.

    I love my human mom, my job, and these little humans who read to me while playing with my ears. And yes, the crumbs are yummy too.

    • A service dog is specially trained to help a person with disabilities. A therapy dog is specially trained to provide comfort and affection to people
      in a variety of situations.

    Biscuit was rescued at about 6 years of age and is now 13. You
    can visit Biscuit at Fremont Elementary with her human mom,
    Brenda Holmes-Stanciu

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  • Wilson Students Love Bigger

    Posted by DEVRA ASHBY on 2/11/2022 9:00:00 AM

    On a beautiful sunny February day in Colorado Springs, a small group of nine 4th and 5th graders from Wilson Elementary stand outside the Springs Rescue Mission donation site and excitedly put on shirts that say #LoveBigger. These shirts were given to the student council students as a gesture of thanks for their humble actions to "love bigger."

    In December, these amazing children worked with their teachers and adult leaders, Ilka Andino, Kelsey Snyder, and Maureen Becker to come up with a way to support those in our community who are most in need. They decided to sell candy canes as a fundraiser and raised a total of $600!

    On February 9, the children presented the check to representatives of the Springs Rescue Mission. They learned that through their act of kindness, the money raised would provide services like shelter, showers, food, clothing, and necessities for a person in need for a month.

    These amazing students learned that it doesn't take much to make a difference in someone's life and that a school is a place where they not only learn math, science, and literacy but also how to help their fellow citizens. We are proud of these future leaders!


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  • Music and Food for the Soul

    Posted by DEVRA ASHBY on 1/28/2022 10:00:00 AM

    Long before the pandemic, our amazing D11 cafeteria and kitchen teams held a special place in the hearts of so many students, staff, and families. They work tirelessly to serve the wholesome food that keeps our students energized and ready to learn. But they do so much more. They build relationships with children, they tie their shoes, listen to their stories, and they are trusted adults in the lives of so many of our students. This story demonstrates their heart and dedication to our D11 family.

    We received this story from Cristi Dozeman at Chipeta Elementary. Ms. Dozeman writes:

    During those hard times of COVID-19, it was very challenging as a lunch lady. In the beginning, it was hard to keep up with all the kids in the school. Missing their little smiles and cute jokes. I was the lunch lady that would wipe those little noses when they were runny or wipe those cute little messy faces. It's like we missed out on two years of their lives. Not being able to have that connection with them, not getting to know their names and not being able to hear their crazy stories have been so difficult.

    I wanted to have that connection with them and still have fun with them, but couldn't figure out a way. I thought to myself about what makes my kids happy and excited without even trying. MUSIC!!!! So I brought my speaker and hooked up my music so I could try to lighten up the mood in the lunchroom. I knew through music we could connect somehow.

    Just watching those babies dance and be silly for a change has been so refreshing. Even my staff has gotten in on the fun and I catch them singing and dancing as well. I didn't think things would be the same after all this, but we sure found a way to make it fun for the kids again. We found a way to empower these wonderful kids in a fun way. I love the fact that I could have this fun connection with them and everyone else through music.

    I am a very passionate person when it comes to music 🎶 and I am glad I got a chance to use that passion for them. I invite anyone that wants to come by and get in on the fun on Fridays at Chipeta to see what amazing kids we truly have. Thanks for listening to my short story.

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  • From Industry to the Classroom: One professional's story of dedication to students

    Posted by DEVRA ASHBY on 1/21/2022 9:00:00 AM

    SEAYWhat does true dedication to teaching students look like? One might say Craig Seay is demonstrating this in his new role as the state's FIRST Telecommunications Technologies career pathway instructor. You see, Mr. Seay didn't take the traditional route of becoming a teacher. 

    Mentoring and teaching young people in the technology industry seems to run in Mr. Seay’s DNA. He’s not only worked for seven years as a D11 District Support Technician, serving elementary, middle, and high schools by troubleshooting and repairing various technologies, but he has a background of training others on his vast knowledge.

    Mr. Seay is a retired USAF F-15 Aircraft Maintenance Technician and instructor who served 13 years overseas in Europe and Japan. At Sabin Middle School in D11, Mr. Seay helped students learn the aspects of D11 network administration. He holds a Colorado Department of Education authorization to teach information technology courses, which he is thrilled to do in the newest D11 pathway program, Telecommunications Technologies. In addition, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics with a minor in Aviation Safety from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and Associate of Science degrees in Instructor of Technology and Military Science and Aviation Maintenance Technology from Community College of the Air Force.

    Mr. Seay’s military past in the fighter aircraft community includes experience in aircraft maintenance, technical instruction, program administrator duties, small unit network administrator, and section supervisor. In addition, Mr. Seay’s career and educational highlights include:

    • Taught college accredited technical science courses;
    • Built and installed 18 computers in schools, pulled network cables;
    • Installed copper and fiber optics in two 8,000 sqft maintenance hangars during renovation;
    • Federal Communication Commission Technician class radio license.

    Mr. Seay is excited and ready to begin his role helping D11 launch the state's very first telecommunications pathway, helping students move toward success in a fast-moving, high-demand industry. We are thrilled to have someone like Mr. Seay working with students to prepare them for a lifetime of success!

    For more information on this pathway and the other award-winning D11 Career and Technology Education Pathways, visit www.d11.org/cte


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