From S.T.A.M.P. to S.I.L.C.

  • The Aspen Difference
Jessie Skipwith and Student S.I.L.C. Club Members

Everything begins and ends with our core values here at Aspen Academy; to Be Kind, Do Good, Work Hard, and to Make the World Better. Our 7th and 8th grade students are leveraging their voice and passions to make this happen and bring these values to life. 

In keeping with these core values, this October, Aspen Academy sponsored six eighth grade students who participated in the 2021 S.T.A.M.P. Conference downtown in Denver at the History Colorado Museum. S.T.A.M.P. is an acronym for Students Taking Action and Making Progress. There was much more interest than available spaces for all students to participate who desired to attend, so students took it upon themselves to create a club at Aspen Academy called S.I.L.C. S.I.L.C. is an acronym that stands for Student Inclusion Leadership Club, and it is serving as a safe and brave space for students to come together to show up as their authentic selves and to invite inclusion of all students at Aspen Academy.  It is a platform where students can live out Aspen Academy's curricular mission of being an Entrepreneurial Leadership school as well.

The S.T.A.M.P. Conference provided students with an opportunity to hear a keynote speaker as well as to participate in breakout sessions with students from around the greater Denver area and other participating schools. Breakout sessions afforded students from throughout Denver to dialogue, discuss and learn about many current challenges facing people from all backgrounds, including but not limited to food scarcity, environmental degradation, and how these two social issues are connected to poverty and the marginalization of certain identified groups of people.

Some of the breakout sessions included topics like, “Don’t Play with Pronouns,” where students explored challenges of being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and around making the community a fun, inclusive, and meaningful place; “Dying to Make a Living… The American Dream, Not so Dreamy!" and “Identity Soup,“ where students explored the various cultural identifiers that make up one’s personal identity. For example, students explored the dynamics of family of origin, race, ethnicity, gender and other personal cultural identifiers that inform all of our personal identities and how we show up in the world. Students gained insights that pointed to all of us having a different background and a different historical life experience, and as such none of us has the exact same “soup" as another.

During the keynote speaker's presentation, students had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Ietef Vita, perhaps more commonly known by his musical stage name, DJ Cavem. DJ Cavem grew up in Denver in the Five Points area where he personally witnessed food scarcity in underrepresented and low income areas of the greater Denver area. Cavem has had a deep connection to environmental activism and food justice throughout his young life and into his professional career, where he now uses his passion for music and serving others to raise awareness around these challenging social issues. As he became aware of the need for self-sustainability and eliminating hunger, he developed an interest for both gardening and hip-hop music which allowed him to raise awareness across the globe about the existence of food deserts in communities of color throughout the United States.  While listening to Dr. Vita, students were active participants and we learned about the impact of factory farms destroying the Amazon rainforest, the effect that pesticides and herbicides are having on soil health and microorganisms in our waters, and we saw how the depletion of the health of our oceans is affecting millions of species every day around our sacred planet; including humans.

As eighth graders at Aspen Academy, we were so grateful for the opportunity to learn even more about social justice, food scarcity, and learning about how we as individuals can raise awareness for ourselves and others in order to create a more loving, inclusive and safe planet for all members of the human family. Our hope and goal was to bring back much of what we learned at the S.T.A.M.P. Conference here to Aspen Academy and to do so through the organization of a club; hence we created S.I.L.C.

Our eighth grade club members who attended S.T.A.M.P wanted to bring their experiences from S.T.A.M.P to S.I.L.C. Here is what they had to say.

“My name is Connor W. and I attended the "We Outside (The Box)" class at the 2021 STAMP conference. I learned that there are many different ways to express your beliefs. But a very common way that surrounds everyone is artivism. This is a way to express your beliefs and be an activist by making a piece of art. I learned that you need to be yourself and express your beliefs.”

“My name is Lillie S. and I attended "Don’t Play with Pronouns" and "Perspective Detective" at the 2021 STAMP conference. In these two sessions, I learned about how to support someone and to make sure you respect personal pronouns. I also learned about how to be a better leader in my community. I loved attending STAMP and I hope to do it again.”

“My name is Lauren B., I did the session "Don't Play With Pronouns" which was very interesting. We broke up into smaller groups and went over what all the LGBTQ+ flags mean, personal stories people had of coming out, and about what outing was. It was so great to see so many perspectives on life that other people had. I also did the session "Perspective Detectives" that covered many social problems. We took notes on what we noticed in controversial pictures and shared our thoughts on them after we read what it was a picture about. I was so glad that we were able to see how both sides of the stories thought and get a full understanding of what was happening before we made an opinion.”

“My name is Caden S. I attended Don’t Play With Pronouns, where we focused on supporting and being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. We focused on topics such as outing, specifically what it is, and how to avoid it. We also focused on different pronouns, and what gender identity really means. Finally, we focused on learning different pride flags. This expanded my view on how you could identify, on a spectrum. I also attended the session known as "The Reality of Anatomy." In this session, we looked at Abortion laws, and how they were used to restrict women's reproductive rights. We saw how important women's reproductive rights are, and how recent it was that reproductive rights were recognized. This made me see how important basic rights are.”

S.I.L.C., Student Inclusion Leadership Club, is an opportunity for us to come together as students with a common vision; to spread kindness in our school and larger communities. We have established a club motto, “Making Every Today Better Than Every Yesterday." So far we have elected club officers, identified a variety of goals that we have established together that will allow us to spread the club's “goodness“ to as many places as possible, and identified even more ways that we can give back to our larger community.  We look forward to continuing to share out with others the many good accomplishments we tackle as a club in the months to come.

What is most important for us is that we create a club that is fun, meaningful and impactful for us as participants and for others who are interested in joining the club. We hope to build community by strengthening personal relationships with one another as well as with new members across grade levels. We understand that trust with one another is built over time and that if we are intentional and aware, we can model for one another and for younger students in the Aspen Academy community that building trusting relationships strengthens the bond between all of us.

As we continue to establish our club culture with the current seventh and eighth grade students who are members, our next goal will be to expand our club to both fifth and sixth grade students in the near future; allowing us to spread even more goodness.  We hope to identify meaningful service activities that we can commit to as a club as well so that we can pay this "goodness" forward outside of Aspen Academy where there is a community need.

About the Author

Skipwith_small-square-BIO

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.