Rocky Mountain Prep student - Source: E Cryan Photography

Message from the President: Start With Why

Those of you who know me well, know that I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek and, in particular, his teachings on how great leaders inspire action. If you are unfamiliar with Sinek, I encourage you to check out his Ted Talk about the importance of starting with “why.” Sinek challenges leaders to not focus on what they do or how they do it, but rather on why they do what they do. In essence, “Why do you get out of bed in the morning and why should anyone care?”

With that in mind, I feel compelled to share with you why we are co-hosting The Succeeds Prize with 9NEWS, mindSpark Learning, and Governors Hickenlooper, Ritter, and Owens. By this point, you have undoubtedly received an email or two about this event. On its face, it may appear to be just another rubber chicken dinner on the calendar that we all have attended ad nauseam. Let me share with you why this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.

Education is freedom; it is opportunity, the strength and sustainability of our communities, and the foundation of our democracy. It’s the difference between a future we want our children to inherit and one that leaves us sleepless at night. Educators are our heroes. They have dedicated their lives to preparing our next generation to navigate the challenges and opportunities of our globally connected, network-based, knowledge-based world. It’s hard to imagine a more difficult or more important profession. What’s more, Colorado is in the midst of one of the worst teacher shortages in our history. Now, more than ever, we need educators across our state to feel how much we value their commitment and appreciate their significant contributions to Colorado’s children and to the future we want to build together.

Colorado just released the latest round of student achievement data. In general, Colorado’s students are improving, but not nearly fast enough. Massive gaps in achievement exist between students largely on the basis of income, race, language, and location. At the same time, our economy continues to evolve more quickly than ever. This means that expectations for Colorado’s students only continue to elevate – and at breakneck speed.

Many public policy changes designed to equip educators with the conditions, supports, and information to help all Colorado students meet these higher demands have been enacted over the last ten years. From a public policy standpoint, Colorado is the envy of many states. While important policy work remains to further support educators with more favorable conditions, much of the focus has turned to implementation. In other words, how are these policy changes leading to improvements in student outcomes?

As with any change movement or new product release, there will always be early adopters. In education, we are seeing early adopting schools take advantage of these new supports and conditions and translate them into game-changing experiences for their students. Schools that are breaking the cycle of poverty for their students and preparing them for success in life whatever they choose to do. Schools that are literally reversing the achievement gap – low-income students at these schools are outperforming their wealthier peers at other schools. These schools are not just critical to the lives of the families they serve, they matter to all of us.

We need to shine a bright light on education’s impact makers and innovators who are meeting the challenges before them with vigor and perseverance. On October 3rd, we will honor them with awards and over $135,000 to expand their transformational efforts. We must also share their stories of success with educators, employers, and community leaders across our state. Through The Succeeds Prize event and follow-up storytelling campaign, we aim to identify effective strategies, understand what makes them successful, and inspire educators statewide to adapt and adopt promising practices in their unique environments.

I know you care deeply about the lives of Colorado’s students and educators. You continually inspire me with your generosity, insight, and commitment. You have a deep sense of moral conviction for this work. It’s about your current and future talent pipeline, but it’s also about ensuring all students in our state benefit from the life-altering educational experiences that we were afforded. Because we know that only through the power of education can we build the community we all aspire to create.

With that in mind, I humbly request that you help us send a message to educators across our state that we value their impactful work, we admire their commitment, and we are grateful for their partnership in future-building. Join us on October 3rd and I promise you will leave inspired by what’s possible. The event is free to attend. It is not a fundraiser – it is a celebration of impact. If you have not RSVP’d already, you can do so through the image below.

Thank you for being such a valuable partner. I look forward to seeing you on October 3rd.

Colorado Succeeds