The Class of 2020 Represents the Heroic Work of Students, Families, Educators

May 27, 2020

By Rebecca Holmes, CEI President and CEO

Every May and June across Colorado we get to watch something really exciting – students graduating and transitioning to the next stage of their life. This time has always been one to reflect on the previous year, what is happening next, and how we are going to work together to support the next groups of students in our communities. From my various seats across every level of the education system over the last two decades, I’ve always found this to be a bittersweet time. It’s where we both say goodbye to the students we’ve committed our lives to, and hello to the new possibilities the next year will offer us. This year, the feeling is more bittersweet and challenging than ever before. The COVID crisis has rippled across the state to transform every graduation in every community. From rescheduling, to holding ceremonies in outdoor drive-ins or via parades in small towns, the graduates of 2020 should be honored as real trailblazers. The final months of their education experiences showed us as practitioners what we could do when we rallied together, and unfortunately, exposed many of the challenges still facing our system. The heroic work of our students, families, and educators to succeed in spite of this troubled time will always inspire me. At the same time, those 2020 graduates are launching into unprecedented disruption and, this week in particular, I’ve been thinking about the untapped potential of our students and recent graduates to lead necessary public service work and to guide us in reimagining our schools and communities. What structures can we create and what mindsets can we foster to empower our young people right now?

At CEI, these past few months have been a whirlwind. We’ve updated you all on many of the big initiatives: our needs inventory, the launch of Read with Me at Home with Rocky Mountain PBS, and our Disrupted Learning series.  What we may not have shared so explicitly is how our team has been working tirelessly to support school districts around the state with urgent needs. Whether it was a partnership with PCs for People to get computers in the hands of students, or helping districts connect to other districts who are experiencing the same challenges, weaving and braiding connections between education leaders across the state is our core work, as it will always be.

As we move into the summer, we are committing even more of our time and resources to do this critical work. Expect this coming year to feature more stories of amazing leaders who are doubling down during this crisis to reimagine what is possible. As one inspiring Colorado superintendent said to me a few weeks ago, “there is real tragedy to address, and at the same time, shame on us if we emerge from this moment the same way we went into it.” Reinvention requires creativity and creativity requires rest, trust, learning, and radical collaboration.  The team at CEI is eager to spend this summer working with you all on that reinvention!