P.S.1 is Denver’s first charter school; it serves a diverse clientele of 280 middle and high school aged students and their families. The school also has a night program that provides work-study credit and evening classes.
P.S.1 offers immersive, community-based curriculum that emphasizes interdisciplinary classes, service-learning opportunities, and individualized instruction. It utilizes the urban core of Denver as the primary classroom, but also offers national and international travel opportunities. P.S.1 is a small school. Its staff and governing board partners with students, parents, and community members to create learning experiences that are unique, dynamic, experiential in nature, and relevant to the young people the school serves. Learning is evaluated through standardized and performance-based assessments. The school is an excellent site for aspiring urban citizens to work with young people and their families, educators, and community partners in developing an educational program that is transformational for the learner and the community.
Teachers, parents, and community members wishing to create a viable alternative for Denver’s youth organized the school seven years ago. P.S. 1 is a public school and part of the Denver public school system. The school has attained waivers from the state of Colorado and protection as well as guidelines through the state’s charter legislation. Its charter status enables it to create and implement its innovative curriculum and assessment model, educational reform strategies, and directly serve students who have not found success or satisfaction from more conventional alternatives. Each intern is assigned to a specific teacher and or program and has a specific job description that they create based on the schools needs.
Students that return after their first semester with P.S.1 are offered stipends.
WESTSIDE OUTREACH CENTER (WOC)
The Westside Outreach Center (WOC) is a HUD-funded center for building partnerships between the university and various low-income communities. WOC’s mission is to channel students and faculty into collaborative projects with the organizations and individuals of low-income neighborhoods, with a special focus on building projects and economics. The Westside Outreach Center is a student-driven center, supervised by co-directors professor Anthony R. Robinson and Stephanie Pelz. The Center is located on-site in the heart of Denver’s low-income Westside community at 1033 Santa Fe Drive. All paid staff of WOC are students. Students govern and manage the Center’s space and student’s design and carry out most of the community outreach projects. Leading WOC projects include: a tenant-organizing project, a neighborhood organizing/planning project, an immigrant day laborer organizing project, and providing mentoring and leadership development assistance to local K-12 schools. Paid staff positions, student stipends, and course credit are available for students working through WOC.
Individual Projects available to students of Urban Citizen:
1) The Immigrant Day Laborer Organizing Project:
Every day, dozens of immigrant day laborers (mostly without documents) gather at a downtown street corner seeking daily work in construction, landscaping, and other such fields. These workers are easily exploited by their employers (they are often not paid, for example), they lack access to an indoor gathering space, they lack homes and sanitation facilities, and the Denver police constantly arrest them for loitering and the like. The Day Laborer Organizing Project is working to build a powerful union of day laborers, and to advocate on their behalf with city council members, the Denver Police, and with exploitive employers. We are working to fund and build a Day Laborers Center. We are bringing workers wage claims to court, and we are building cultural activities and the like for day laborers on the street. Students wishing to join this project would be part of a team, including leadership from the American Friends Service Committee. Students could serve as field organizers (joining other staff in morning visits to the street corner, as research assistants, (gathering important data to support worker’s claims), and translators (Spanish-English), or as para-legals (helping bring wage-claim issues, etc., in front of small-claims court).
2) The Save Our Section 8 Tenant Organizing Project:
Hundreds of low-income Section 8 housing units are disappearing in Colorado. Many building owners are choosing not to renew their contract with the government to provide long term low-income housing units to the elderly, disabled or impoverished, and are instead opting to convert their low-income apartment building into upscale condos, lofts, or luxury apartments. Hundreds of vulnerable citizens risk eviction. Hundreds more low-income tenants face management harassment, poor housing conditions, and abuse from expletive landlords. The Save Our Section 8 Coalition (SOS8) is a project to build strong tenants’ associations in various downtown housing complexes, and unite there coalitions into city-wide tenants group that can defend tenant rights against abusive landlords, and that can compel changes in Denver housing options. The SOS8 coalition has passed housing preservation legislation through city council, has helped build a low-income housing trust fund, and was instrumental in saving the low-income East Village housing complex from upscale redevelopment by Post Properties. Students interested in working with this coalition could serve as field organizers (attending coalition meetings, and helping other staff reach out to additional buildings, educating tenants, etc.), as newsletter editors/producers, or as fund-raisers, helping to write a grant or solicit local donations.
3) The La Alma/Lincoln Part Neighborhood Organizing Project:
La Alma/Lincoln Park is a historically low-income neighborhood; one of Denver’s oldest, and home to one of Denver’s vibrant and politically active Latino populations, but the community is being gentrified and housing prices are rising fastest in Denver. Other changes include the expansion of Light Rail (possibly through the heart of the community). And the expansion of General hospital (involving the loss of housing units) and the proposal to build a massive new jail on the neighborhood’s border. Recently, residents have organized a strong neighborhood planning group that is trying to build the political power necessary to defend neighborhood interests against gentrification or against negative institutional encroachment (like a new jail). This planning group was instrumental in persuading voters to reject the plans for the jail in the last general election, but the Mayor looks as if he will be trying to get this jail built there by other means. Students wishing to learn how neighborhood politics works at the grass-roots level could join the planning group by acting as technical consultants helping to build a web site and regular newsletter for the group, a volunteer assistant to the neighborhood beautification campaign (helping to plan neighborhood clean-up and youth-art days), a research assistant gathering important neighborhood data and examining progressive planning efforts in other cities, or field organizer working on a chosen local campaign by canvassing the community, educating city officials, etc.
4) The Hangout Resource Center Project:
The Hangout Resource Center is a small, grass-roots organization built and led by survivors of brain injuries. The Center allows brain injury survivors to gather on a regular basis to plan social events, network among each other, engage in educational programs, and the like. This organization would love to have a short promotion/education video about their program. Already previous urban citizen students have gathered much of the footage (of meetings, interviews, etc.). Any student wishing to produce a short promotional video could use the media lab of the Westside Outreach Center, and could receive short tutorials on how to use the equipment, and could then finish the Hangout Resource Center video. Students would have access to training and equipment, and would start with a good deal of footage already.
5) The Westside Outreach Center Murals Project:
The Westside Outreach Center is in need of student-designed murals to grace its center. Some murals have already been produced, but there are several walls of space in the Center that could be graced by culturally relevant and/or politicized murals appropriate to such a Center. Students wishing to work in this project would work with WOC staff to conceive of murals, design them, and install them in the WOC space. Art supplies would be provided and/or scrounged by a specialist in scrounging…one of the intended benefits of being an urban citizen student.