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A Meeting with the Mayor: Part One

A Meeting with the Mayor: Part One
Posted on 09/25/2018
Bear Creek High School Senior Field Studies students Chloe Lopez-Jauffret, Chase Jurgaitis, and Sophie Augustine reflect back on what they learned setting up an appointment with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. Spend any amount of time near Denver’s City and County Building and you’d quickly get a sense of the ebb and flow of daily downtown living. These Bear Creek High School students immersed themselves in it as part of their Senior Field Studies program.

“By the time they get to this age, they kind of get a sense of the world and they could probably describe how the world is to you,” said Senior Field Studies Co-Director Steven Porentas. “But, they really don’t know how it came to be that way and they don’t quite understand the power that they have to create the world that they would rather see.”

This is the urban portion of the curriculum. Once they’ve completed it, they’ll move on to a rural experience that involves a stay at a ranch or farm, and then a wilderness adventure to cap it all off. For their urban learning, the idea is for them to get a taste of all the different things that define a city. They’re divided into teams. This team, Team One, set up a visit with Denver’s mayor.

“Urban is all about pulling back the curtain and trying to show the students how things are the way they are and all the mechanisms that make society run,” explained Porentas.

The students waited nervously for their appointment. Mayor Hancock was running late. For the students, the planning started weeks ago, in the classroom. Initiating and organizing each urban field trip is on them. The scheduling, which usually involves a dozen students per trip, can be a bit noisy and chaotic, so they head off to different corners of their high school to start their work. Hallways become makeshift offices.

“A lot of students don’t have too many professional skills and, as adults, we’ve been navigating the world for a long time and we kind of take for granted how nerve-racking it would be to make a cold phone call or to send an email and not get a response,” said Porentas.

“I was on the phone for about an hour with five different people. They’d all transfer me as soon as I got on the phone with them,” student Sophie Augustine explained. “I was mostly on hold the whole time and finally I got to like this one person, I don’t even know their name. At a certain point, they stopped introducing themselves to me. They just kind of were like ‘ok well they don’t know where to put you.’”

After a lot of frustrating phone tag, Sophie learned the best way to set up her meeting was on the mayor’s website.

“The application online only took 30 minutes and I was on the phone for several hours just trying to find like where to go,” she said.

“I mean that’s daily life for us, but for these students, some of them, it was their first experience with that kind of logistics,” added Porentas.

Their time with Mayor Hancock was going to have to wait just a few minutes more. An unexpected meeting had popped up. But once they get their chance…

“I was treated like an equal and that was like the best feeling I’ve ever had,” said Augustine.

That’s next time, as our story continues in Part Two.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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