Celebrating Differences: Middle School Students Attend STAMP Conference

  • The Aspen Difference
Jessie Skipwith

Recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the Aspen Academy community remains a priority commitment for our students, faculty and families. The 21-22 school year will bring an abundance of additional opportunities for all members of our community to engage in Inclusive Conversations, Book Club Discussions, professional development, and a chance for everyone to learn, grow and become increasingly aware of the variety of perspectives and life experiences represented within our school family.

This Spring, as part of a larger network of Denver school participants, seven Aspen Academy seventh and eighth graders participated in the 2021 STAMP (Students Taking Action & Making Progress) Conference in a virtual format. Annually, the organization CIRCLE serves to foster “Connecting Inclusive, Responsive Communities Leading Education,” and hosts this conference for Colorado students.

Aspen Academy middle school students were invited to submit an application and to share their desire to participate with an explanation as to why they believe their participation is important to our school's overall effort to become more inclusive, kind and committed to social justice. Students responded with amazingly insightful, enthusiastic and inquisitive applications and each brought remarkable perspectives of their own to a day filled with growth in understanding, empathy, and critical thinking skills building on their personal goals of building a more inclusive school community.

Mr. Jessie Skipwith and Ms. Brita Gaeddert supported and sponsored the conference for our students to participate in this day filled with learning and growth. The conference kicked off with the amazing Lyla June Johnston as the keynote speaker. As a member of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages, Lyla June Johnston leverages her gifts and passion for building inclusive communities through her beautiful music and the presentation of thought-provoking essential questions emphasizing inclusion for all people. Following her keynote presentation, Aspen Academy student participants were able to engage in a series of breakout sessions with students from other participating schools from throughout Denver to process, share, and relate with one another on the gravity and importance of creating inclusive communities both locally and around the world.

At the end of the day, Aspen Academy students offered that “our school community will do better, and individual students will do better, if there are influential student leaders in the school; and I want to be that person.” Another student shared that, “I always want to learn how to be a better person, and I feel it is my obligation to learn and grow. I want to learn how to be more effective when I see others being mistreated or not included. I hope to help Aspen Academy be a brave and safe space for everyone so that everyone feels welcome.”

Congratulations to our students for earning the opportunity to attend and for their leadership and commitment to kindness.

Word cloud from student feedback on participating in STAMP 2021

About the Author

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Jessie Skipwith is the Director of Elevate, Licensed School Counselor, and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Aspen Academy.

Jessie comes to Aspen Academy with over 20 years of experience in educational leadership and student engagement. He has held head of school positions at elementary, middle and high schools, ran an all-school counseling department, provided private practice counseling services for families and individuals, and has served as the executive director of an education non-profit supporting low-income, English language learners from throughout the greater Denver area. He is a voracious reader of books about how students learn, how families and communities support developing young people, as well as books on progressive, innovative and dynamic new solutions to many of today’s life challenges. Jessie loves that Aspen Academy provides families and students with a small, nurturing and safe environment that encourages students to take healthy risks, to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, and that it inspires insatiable curiosity and wonder in students as they pursue their passions to help make the world a better place to live for all people. Outside of work, he loves to spend time with his wife and two children and enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors while hiking, golfing or skiing.