A look back at our top moments of 2023

As we near the end of the year, we’re reflecting on the important work we’ve done to support local students and schools. You can read more about our accomplishments in our 2023 Impact Report and we encourage you to peruse our most popular blog articles of the year. 

Our ten most read stories of the year highlight our mission and commitment to providing students access to excellent and equitable education. Thank you for being part of this important work!

#10 – Board Chair David Ziegert grateful to be part of Impact On Education’s evolution

David always intended to be a high school math teacher. But his nighttime job at Celestial Seasonings — taken to pay for classes at the University of Colorado — turned into a career. Ziegert was with the Boulder-based tea company for 22 years, eventually becoming general manager. And though not in the way he expected, Ziegert did find his way back to education as a Board Member for Impact on Education.

#9 – Announcing our 2023 college scholarship awardees

We’re excited to share that we’ve funded over $40,000 in scholarships for Boulder Valley School District graduates this year, including $18,000 in scholarship renewals and $23,000 to graduating seniors in the Class of 2023.

#8 – Impact on Education welcomes three new board members

Our Board of Directors plays an important role in our work to engage students and empower educators across the Boulder Valley School District. Three new Board Members – Amy Pickens, Bill de la Cruz, and Dan Konigsburg – will support this work and further our mission.

#7 – The growth, success and challenges of Crayons to Calculators

Through the leadership of Impact on Education and dedicated individuals and organizations in our community, Crayons to Calculators has provided school supplies to over 130,000 students over the past 18 years.

#6 – Funding mental health and student well-being

We are committed to providing an elevated level of mental health support for all students, especially those affected by the Marshall Fire. From Wellness Centers to Mental Health Advocates, we’re working toward three goals that would allow us to serve 11,698 students at 12 schools across BVSD.

#5 – How much does it cost to live in Boulder County?

Everyone in our community is experiencing increased costs for food, fuel and other basic necessities. Rising prices mean families across our community are struggling to make ends meet. Every school in the Boulder Valley School District includes families facing financial challenges.

#4 – Community Conversation brings youth mental health to the forefront

Young people today are experiencing a mental health crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before. Nearly one in five youth in Colorado reported poor mental health in 2021 — double the rate seen in 2017. Social media, the pandemic, and climate change were just some of the external pressures students and parents cited during a panel discussion that gathered more than 300 people at Manhattan Middle School on April 12, 2023.

#3 – Dr. Amy Pickens helps BVSD students find a sense of belonging

Amy (Nelson) Pickens works tirelessly to advance equity across Boulder Valley School District. A former educator, she is starting her fourth year working with BVSD administration and currently serves as the Director of Equity and Community Engagement.

#2 – Behind the scenes at the 2023 Impact Awards

On May 3, 2023 we held our 30th Annual Impact Awards celebration! Since 1993, the Impact Awards has recognized hundreds of educators – teachers, custodians, office managers, food service employees, crossing guards, and more – from each school across BVSD. The energy of our dedicated educators was incredible and the event was a great success – thank you to everyone who joined us!

#1 – How BVSD Wellness Centers support student resilience

We’re funding Wellness Centers across Boulder Valley School District because we believe they’re powerful tools for supporting our youth and helping them thrive. Students need support to manage their emotional health. Mental Health Advocates can help teach them how, while the BVSD Wellness Centers give them the space to do so.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 30,000 students and 4,000 educators of the Boulder Valley School District.

How Social Venture Partners helped us navigate unprecedented growth

“Over the past three years we’ve watched and supported Impact on Education as it grew and matured. The organization is clear about its mission, vision, and how it intends to achieve both. Impact on Education has strong leadership both on the Board of Directors and in their staff. And they all work together as a team.”

Kay Paine, one of our partners with the Social Venture Partners (SVP) Catapult program, shared these remarks at our graduation from the program earlier this month.

What is the SVP Catapult program?

The SVP (Social Venture Partners) Catapult program is a unique initiative designed to propel nonprofit organizations to new heights. By providing strategic guidance and financial support, SVP Catapult helps organizations like us expand their capabilities, reach, and impact. 

We joined the program in 2020 and since then SVP partners have provided Impact on Education with 554 hours of support and provided $41,000. Thank you to all of the partners we worked with, including Kay Paine, Karin Lindgren, Josh Silberstein, Cathleen Kendall, Mark Bouzek, Shawna Peterson, and Maegan Vallejo.

3 ways SVP supported our growth

Strategic Planning and DEI Work

When we talk about supporting the Boulder Valley School District, we’re deliberate in our focus on equity and supporting those furthest from resources. If that’s who we are in our day to day work, that is also how we have to plan. We knew our strategic plan had to be steeped in equity so we used our first grant from SVP to hire Jamie Morgan to provide extensive DEI training to our Board of Directors and staff team. 

“Equity is part of every single day and the decisions we make from top to bottom in our organization.” – Allison Billings, Executive Director of Impact on Education

Our strategic priorities were then created during a strategic planning session with SVP Partner Mark Bouzek. The year to year work will grow and change, but at the core our work is about empowering students and educators, engaging with our community, and evolving as an organization and a school district.

This work now guides every strategic planning and goal setting conversation in our organization. 

Program Evolution

Over the past three years we’ve seen remarkable growth in our programs, evolving small-scale initiatives into more extensive, impactful projects. We expanded our early childhood education program to reach more students, more cities, and to offer them full-day learning opportunities to prepare for school. And our focus on college and career readiness evolved to meet changing educational and professional landscapes. 

BVSD now has a Grad Plus framework that ensures every single student will graduate with more than a diploma. They’ll either have a seal of biliteracy, some college credit, an industry certification, or some work based learning experience – or a combination of those. We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes to support this program and now we’re working to find and remove barriers to these opportunities for students, including textbook and test fees.

We’re also now in the third year of our Career Readiness Academy, helping high school students prepare for their futures. And this is where we’re leveraging expertise in the community to teach students how to interview, how to build a resume, and how to identify their interests and their passions.

When we started working with SVP, mental health wasn’t something we were focused on. But we quickly found ourselves navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing youth mental health crisis. Our community then suffered a mass shooting and the most destructive wildfire in Colorado’s history. Students are struggling and mental health is something we’ve embraced and made tremendous investments in. This year we invested nearly $1.5M in mental health to ensure students have access to help and resources. 

Fundraising and Marketing

In 2021, SVP partner Shawna Peterson conducted a fundraising audit for us that was incredibly helpful. It taught us what we were doing well and where we needed to grow and improve.

Through our growth and resilience alongside unforeseen crises, we’ve retained existing supporters and gained new ones. Our communications are transparent and effective, and by sticking with us our supporters have shown us that they trust us and know how to make the most impactful investments. BVSD leaders and our schools know that Impact on Education is a partner they can rely on today and in the future. That’s the secret of our success.

A valuable experience 

Impact on Education experienced unprecedented growth and change over the last few years—our annual investment in BVSD students has nearly tripled —and we’re grateful to have had the guidance of Social Venture Partners along the way. From unforeseen challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Marshall Fire, to planned expansions of our early childhood education and college and career readiness programs, SVP’s support helped us stay focused on what we do best: ensuring students have the resources they need, when they need them.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 30,000 students and 4,000 educators of the Boulder Valley School District.

IOE grants provide $80,0000 to empower BVSD educators

In our first Academic Opportunity Fund funding round of the 2023-24 school year we’ve awarded nearly $80,000 to 74 educators in 33 schools, with an average award of over $800. The program received 105 applications from 37 schools across the Boulder Valley School District which were reviewed by trained community volunteers.

Grants for classroom educators and schools are small yet powerful tools that can help fund creative and innovative ideas for educational projects, activities, and materials. Our Academic Opportunity Fund is a valuable resource for teachers and schools with limited budgets who are determined to provide the best learning opportunities for their students.

After-school tutoring and outreach programs

We received a variety of requests for supplemental instruction across the district. A Boulder middle school with a strong connection to their Spanish-speaking families will receive funding to build new bilingual resources in support of their special education programming.

Additional grants we are funding include:

Reading support

Many BVSD educators sought support for improving students’ reading engagement and ability. One notable request was to expand an online/virtual reading intervention program for 4th and 5th grade students who are reading below grade level. This program – Really Great Reading – works to increase reading proficiency for students before they head to middle school. This year, our funds will help the program expand to BVSD’s bilingual schools, supporting over 200 students at 16 elementary schools.

Additional grants we’re funding include: 

The impact of educator grants

From multiplication games to cello strings to unified PE equipment, our Academic Opportunity Fund continues to fill specific needs beyond the traditional classroom budget. We are impressed by the dedication and innovation of our BVSD educators and wish we could fund more of the terrific ideas proposed. 

So far this year, our grants will impact an estimated 20,000 students and help increase access to resources and opportunities across the district.

The next round of Academic Opportunity Fund grants will open in December 2023.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 30,000 students and 4,000 educators of the Boulder Valley School District.

Helping students make informed decisions about their futures

In today’s ever-evolving workforce, preparing high school students for the challenges and opportunities beyond graduation is more important than ever.

An after-school program – our Career Readiness Academy – is providing high school students with knowledge, connections, and resources to help them make informed decisions about their futures. Now in its third year, this year’s Academy will enroll 75 students from three schools across Boulder Valley School District: Boulder High, Centaurus High and Broomfield High. 

Impact on Education is committed to providing high school students with training and resources to empower them for their lives after high school. Students that participate in the Career Readiness Academy will explore interests and opportunities they may not have considered or been exposed to, that are available for them to pursue in high school and beyond.

Gaining professional skills and boosting self-confidence

Through a series of ten after-school workshops participants will build self-confidence and self-knowledge throughout the Career Readiness Academy. Students will:

The program places a strong emphasis on developing professional skills that transcend academic knowledge. Students will not only gain valuable insights into what employers look for but also build the confidence needed to thrive.

Recruiting students for the Career Readiness Academy

While all 10th-grade students are encouraged to apply, priority will be given to those facing financial hardship and/or first-generation students, ensuring that opportunities are extended to those who may benefit the most.

To further encourage participation, the program offers a $300 stipend, contingent on attendance. This not only recognizes the commitment of the students but also helps in making the program accessible to a broader range of participants.

How to apply
The deadline to apply for the Career Readiness Academy is Monday, October 23, 2023. Students can click here to apply.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 30,000 students and 4,000 educators of the Boulder Valley School District.

How BVSD Wellness Centers support student resilience

A safe space to spend your off-period, a refuge during an anxiety attack, a place to connect with your friends – these are just a few of the reasons students are visiting Wellness Centers across Boulder Valley School District.

BVSD created its first Wellness Center at Monarch High School in response to the Marshall Fire. When we saw the impact the Wellness Center had on their school community we committed to opening five more and sustaining the one at Monarch. Impact on Education funding is now supporting six high school Wellness Centers at Boulder High, Centaurus High, Fairview High, Monarch High, Nederland Middle-Senior and New Vista High.

One month into the school year, over 1,000 students have made over 2,320 visits to BVSD Wellness Centers to relax, refocus and seek support.

In 2021, 42 percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless regularly for at least a two-week period that they stopped doing their normal daily activities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is a Wellness Center?

The Wellness Centers are welcoming and calming spaces with soft lighting and relaxing music. They are filled with flexible, comfortable seating and sensory activities like fidget toys, puzzles and kinetic sand. Each Wellness Center also offers free tea for students, courtesy of The Tea Spot

But the most important part of each Wellness Center is the mental health professional, a Mental Health Advocate, there to support each student who walks through the door.

One Mental Health Advocate described their Wellness Center as “a cozy cafe,” while students shared that they like “the vibe” and having a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of their school.

“Students have shared that it feels special to them. They are torn between telling everyone how awesome it feels to relax in the room and wanting to keep it a secret.”

– Mental Health Advocate, BVSD Wellness Center

The goal of the Wellness Centers is to provide students with accessible, safe spaces on school campuses that offer mental health support and promote social-emotional wellness. Students are able to visit the Wellness Center anytime during the school day to rest and recharge, connect with their peers, or talk with a trusted mental health professional.

How Wellness Centers are impacting school communities

The Mental Health Advocates leading BVSD Wellness Centers say they’ve been surprised and excited by students’ willingness to share and open up when they are in a crisis. One was also surprised by the reactions of their school staff, sharing that “so many teachers have reached out to tell me they appreciate having a safe place to send students instead of them going home or disappearing to the bathroom.”

We asked the Mental Health Advocates why students have been visiting and it was commonly to:

And often, while a student may start visiting for one reason, they continue going for another. One student who started visiting because it was a safe place to spend her off period, was eventually comfortable opening up about a difficult personal experience she was going through.

Students need support to manage their emotional health. The Mental Health Advocates can help teach them how, while the Wellness Centers give them the space to do so.

“We’re funding these Wellness Centers across Boulder Valley School District because we believe they’re powerful tools for supporting our youth and helping them thrive.”

– Allison Billings, Executive Director of Impact on Education

Reducing the stigma of mental health

So far this school year thousands of students have already visited BVSD Wellness Centers and schools will continue to build awareness of these new spaces in their school communities. The next step for Impact on Education is to supplement the Wellness Centers with meaningful opportunities for parents to engage and gain tools and resources to support their students at home.

BVSD is also creating “a continuum of services” for all students and has a robust offering of mental health resources available to BVSD students and their families.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 30,000 students and 4,000 educators of the Boulder Valley School District.

Impact on Education welcomes three new board members

Today we extend a warm and enthusiastic welcome to three exceptional individuals who recently joined our Board of Directors. The new additions include Amy Pickens, BVSD’s Director of Equity & Community Engagement; Bill De La Cruz, an inclusion and belonging facilitator; and Dan Konigsberg, an entrepreneur and CEO. Their wealth of experience and dedication to our mission will bring fresh perspectives and renewed energy to our work.

The board also elected a new executive committee, naming Karen Brown, board chair; Cathleen Kendall, vice chair; Karen Kruse, treasurer; and Callie Weiant, secretary. We’re also grateful to our outgoing board chair David Ziegert.

Our Board of Directors is key to expanding our ability to engage BVSD students and empower BVSD educators. And these new members are joining us at an exciting time in our organization’s growth.

Amy Pickens 

Director of Equity & Community Engagement
Boulder Valley School District

Amy has over 20 years of experience in education both in the United States and abroad. With her position as Director of Equity and Community Engagement, she supports schools and leaders with equity-focused school improvement and developing authentic partnerships with families and the community.

Amy has a passion for student voice, particularly bringing student voice into equity work. She co-founded the BVSD Youth Equity Council as part of her dissertation for the doctorate in education she earned in 2022. Amy also leads the BVSD Equity council and has served on multiple committees both within the school system and in the communities she’s lived in.  Her involvement in volunteer work, youth organizing, speaking engagements, and research shows her dedication and passion for social justice and equity. Amy is also a BVSD parent and lives in Broomfield.

Learn more about Amy in this recent spotlight article.

Bill De La Cruz

Inclusion and Belonging Facilitator
De La Cruz Solutions 

Bill is an author, facilitator and thought leader who offers facilitation, keynotes and workshops to support individuals and teams in building self-sustaining personal change processes. Bill’s books Finding The Origination Point, Understanding Our Biases to Create a More Peaceful World and Flipping Failure, A Blueprint for Self-Growth and Transformation were written to enhance the personal change process. Bill’s processes support the  creation of personal development and organizational belonging  that drives sustainable systemic change.

As a former board member and Board President for Boulder Valley Schools and the former Director of Equity and Inclusion for Denver public schools Bill has a vast knowledge about educational systems. Having served on the Board of Directors for Parent Engagement Network, the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, and as an original reader of Reading to End Racism, Bill has vast Board experience in Boulder county communities and expertise in adapting systems. Bill has 4 grown children who went through the Boulder Valley schools and lives in Erie. 

Dan Konigsberg

CEO
Campminder

Dan is an experienced entrepreneur with 22 years of experience bootstrapping Campminder, a successful technology company that streamlines operations in the summer camp industry. He is personally devoted to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and wants to raise more awareness about these important issues. He has gained skills of facilitation, mentorship, and strategy that will allow him to succeed as a board member. Dan is also a BVSD parent and lives in Boulder.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 30,000 students and 4,000 educators of the Boulder Valley School District.

Celebrating 40 Years of Impact

We can’t get Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” out of our heads! Last week’s gala was an incredible way to commemorate our 40th Anniversary and engage the community in support of public education.

From the game show and remarks from Governor Polis to our wonderful speakers and the 5280s Band, the evening reminded us how important – and fun! – it is to celebrate success. 

Together we raised over $400,000 to continue engaging students and empowering educators across the Boulder Valley School District.

Click here to view more photos from the event.

OUR PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Were you unable to attend? Watch this new video to learn a little more about how Impact on Education came to be and where we’re headed.

We’re grateful to have a strong community behind us. It’s because of you that we’re able to help BVSD students receive an excellent and equitable education. We all shine brighter together.

Thank you for being part of our work!

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

Board Chair David Ziegert Grateful To Be Part Of Impact On Education’s Evolution

‘We need to be proactive in driving toward change’

By Shay Castle

David Ziegert always intended to be a high school math teacher. But his nighttime job at Celestial Seasonings — taken to pay for classes at the University of Colorado — turned into a career. Ziegert was with the Boulder-based tea company for 22 years, eventually becoming general manager.

Despite the change of course, Ziegert never completely gave up on his first dream.

“When I chose to advance my career at Celestial,” he said, “it was always with the thought that when I turned 50 or 55, I could still be a high school math teacher.”

Though not in the way he expected, Ziegert did find his way back to education. In 2019 — now an operating partner at Boulder-based Sunrise Strategic Partners — he joined the board of Impact on Education. 

“It’s been an amazing experience,” he said. “It allows me to feel I’m having an impact in the lives of students.”

At Sunrise, Ziegert helps organizations navigate growth or “evolutions.” That skillset has come in handy during his four years on the board, a time of almost constant adjustment.

His tenure was marked first by the worldwide disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then the local devastation of the Marshall Fire. Impact on Education took an active role in both, helping to provide meals, transportation vouchers, child care and internet access as well as mental health and trauma support.

Impact on Education went from an organization that people “had heard of but really didn’t know what they did” to one intimately involved in families’ lives. 

“I remember being at the Louisville Street Faire last year and talking to people (who said) ‘You were the ones who helped me when we were displaced by the Marshall Fire, you helped me with transportation because we had to live in Broomfield.’ 

“It’s amazing to be able to say I was, in a way, part of that.”

He gives most of the credit to Impact on Education’s executive team, and BVSD superintendent Rob Anderson. 

“I’m so impressed with the leadership of Dr. Anderson (and) I can’t say enough about Allison (Billings, Impact on Education’s executive director) and the team,” Ziegert said. “The work they do each and every day, being champions and advocates for the kids… It’s very important to me to feel like I’m making a difference. The work I do with Impact on Education scratches that itch for me.”

Ziegert is particularly excited about Impact on Education’s work on mental health, particularly the funding of wellness centers in several schools. The organization will invest $1.2 million of their $2.6 million budget on mental health in the 2023-2024 school year.

“Through my own kids’ experience (of) the hardship that they internalized as part of Marshall Fire, COVID, the current state of the state… I see that need,” he said. “Trying to help my children navigate through challenges of growing up and transitioning into an adult, regardless of how much money I wanted to spend, the mental health resources were not available.

“We’re not going to solve the whole thing, but the work Impact on Education is doing by funding those centers, I truly believe it’s going to have impacts that we will never see or hear or know about to really change the course for an entire generation of students.”

An enduring focus for Ziegert is closing BVSD’s large and persistent achievement gap that COVID exacerbated and exposed. Ziegert believes Impact on Education can play a role in raising awareness, the first step to finding solutions. His time on the board elevated his own awareness, for which he is extremely grateful. 

“My work with Impact on Education really opened my eyes to some of the inequities, that not everyone has the same opportunities available to them,” he said. “It’s not enough for me to maintain my status quo: We need to be very proactive in driving toward that change and filling the gaps that lead to inequitable opportunities. 

“It’s great hearing perspectives that I wouldn’t necessarily have exposure to. There are pieces that will be part of my thinking going forward.”

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

Kinder Bridge prepares BVSD students for Kindergarten

In 2013, in collaboration with Boulder Housing Partners, Impact on Education piloted a summer literacy program for children living in Kalmia public housing in north Boulder. 40 students participated in that first Summer Shuffle program, which eventually grew to serve 60 students across three Boulder public housing sites.

In 2022, the program, now called Kinder Bridge, became part of BVSD’s summer learning program – Summer Summit. Impact on Education funding now enables 160 students to receive four weeks of full-day instruction to prepare them for their first year of school.

2023 program and results

“The whole school had social-emotional time every morning. Doing those activities and team building within our classroom was really helpful. It gave the kids a grounding point.”

– Lead Educator, Kinder Bridge

The 2023 Kinder Bridge summer enrichment program delivered 105 hours of programming to 160 incoming Kindergarten students. Transportation, school supplies, and nutritious meals, along with lessons on healthy behaviors and social-emotional learning, were included in the program.

Licensed educators conducted Kinder Bridge at four Summer Summit locations across Boulder County: Emerald Elementary School in Broomfield, Whittier Elementary School in Boulder, Lafayette Elementary School in Lafayette, and Monarch PK-8 in Louisville.

New this year, students were given a preview of the first month of the Kindergarten curriculum. The site leaders believe students responded well and that the familiarity with both the school routine and academic content would lead to stronger school readiness.

“They’re going to ride the bus, they’re getting a full day. They are going to specials. They get to learn how to stand in line and how to walk from their classroom to the lunchroom and how to put their stuff away in their cubby. I saw a lot of growth in school readiness.”

– Lead Educator, Kinder Bridge

Parent engagement

An important element of the original Summer Shuffle program was family engagement, which we were thrilled to bring back to Kinder Bridge this year. Two partnerships allowed us to offer opportunities for parents and guardians to participate in Kinder Bridge:

Continued learning and growth

Each year we learn how we can improve the program for the following summer. Two ways we’ll continue growing Kinder Bridge next summer include:

We know opportunity gaps start early, and it’s why Impact on Education remains committed to investing in early childhood education.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

Dr. Amy Pickens helps BVSD students find a sense of belonging

Impact on Education recognizes that opportunities are not level in education across racial and socioeconomic lines. Our programs and investments help to identify and remove inequities in public education, ensuring all Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) students receive an excellent and equitable education.

Today we want you to meet someone working tirelessly to advance equity from inside the district. Amy (Nelson) Pickens is starting her fourth year working with BVSD administration and currently serves as the Director of Equity and Community Engagement.

We’re also thrilled to share that Amy is one of three new members joining our Board of Directors in September 2023! You’ll learn more about all of our new members soon.

What does equitable education mean to you?

Every stakeholder, every individual in our system – student, staff member, family, community member – exists in a positive and inclusive culture of belonging. Equity is honoring and affirming identities, cultures, individual strengths, language, and interests. 

During the 2022-23 school year Impact on Education provided funding for racial trauma and healing counselors to work with BVSD students and families.

It’s ensuring we are providing equitable opportunities, access, and resources to meet the uniqueness of each of our students. It is when every member of our BVSD community feels seen, heard, valued, and supported within both their school and larger BVSD community. It is all these things and all encompassing – equity touches everything and everyone. It is both individual and collective. It is using an equity lens with every decision we make and honoring the voices closest to the inequity we are trying to address.

Equitable education means that students know that their voices, identities, hopes and dreams, families, and communities are valued.

How did your experiences teaching abroad and in special education help prepare you for this role?

We all view the world through our own unique lens, one that is informed by our education, our beliefs, and our lived experiences. The lens in which I view the world and educational systems was significantly altered after teaching abroad.

I talk often about mirror work and the importance of individual reflection. We need both insight into self and insight into context if we are going to create the change we hope to create.

While working overseas, every one of my students on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was completing the rigorous IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma Programme. Additionally, the vast majority of students I worked with were not learning in their primary language, and many spoke three or more languages. This led me to reflect on my work as a special educator prior to my experience overseas. Was I contributing to other educators viewing students through a deficit lens by focusing too much on their disabilities and not enough on their strengths? While I cared deeply about my students, I was not giving them everything they needed to thrive in their general education classes and I’m thankful my experience teaching abroad helped alter my thinking.  

Tell us about the work your team does to advance equity in BVSD.

The work is grounded in building trust and fostering a culture of belonging, but equity touches everything. We work with every district stakeholder, including students and families, district leaders, principals, employees, and our community. 

“Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging. If we can put the foundational pieces into place to build a climate and a culture of belonging, students will thrive.”

Amy Pickens, BVSD’s Director of Equity and Community Engagement

It is not always easy for our educators to apply an equity lens. We all approach this work with our unique lens and our lens is only as extensive as our education, lived experiences, people we encounter, books read, lived experiences, etc.  

Part of equity work is consistently taking time to reflect individually on the ways our own lens helps shape our education system and either interrupts or contributes to inequities.  This is hard, but necessary work. While we are charged with supporting our staff and providing training, language, tools, and strategies to help build a culture of belonging in our classrooms and schools, the individual work each employee must do is just as critical to our collective equity work. 

In our work, we often discuss the systemic barriers – including socioeconomic status and race – to student success. How do you talk about these barriers?

Too often when we are talking about systemic barriers we focus on ‘fixing’ students or families.  While the intention may be good, the impact often leads to internalized deficit narratives and validates negative perceptions of students, families, and or their communities.

As educators, we have to continuously reflect on (often referred to as mirror work), name, and disrupt this type of thinking. While it’s important to acknowledge barriers and opportunity gaps, labels such as ‘at-risk’ can be stigmatizing but are often used when discussing systemic barriers to student success. 

If we’re going to talk about risk factors, we must also acknowledge protective factors – strengths & attributes of individuals, families, & communities – so that we don’t further contribute to false narratives and stereotypes.  

We need to view our students, families, and community holistically which requires us to not only consider the perceived barriers, but also the assets. Using an asset-based approach mitigates and even eliminates risk factors.  

What is the Youth Equity Council?

YEC (Youth Equity Council) is an amazing group of students with diverse intersecting identities that advise the district on issues of equity. While I co-founded the Youth Equity Council and help guide their leadership, YEC is an entirely student-led group. Students are recruited in the fall and most of the members are looking for an opportunity to have their voices heard and to create necessary & lasting change.  

The founding student leaders graduated this past May and I’m so proud of each of them and their accomplishments, as well as their lasting impact on generations that come after them. Working directly with our youth gives me so much hope and also motivates me to continue tackling equity issues in public education.  An individual win is a collective win and moves our work forward.  

Read a recent Daily Camera article about the Youth Equity Council.

Bringing her expertise to Impact on Education

BVSD is fortunate to have Amy helping empower students, staff and families in our community – her contributions are critical to the health of the district. We’re eager to see how her work with BVSD continues to evolve and welcome her to our Board of Directors.

BEFORE YOU GO …

Impact on Education is a nonprofit organization, and we depend on our community to help us put our mission into action. We need your help to to provide opportunity and resources to 29,000 students and 4,000 educators in the Boulder Valley School District.

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info@impactoneducation.org
303.524.3865

Impact on Education
721 Front Street, Suite A
Louisville, CO 80027

Tax ID #84-0943046