Nebiyu Tadesse came to the Cherry Creek School District as an overwhelmed 13-year-old who spoke no English and had little in the way of community roots.
Less than four years later, the Smoky Hill High School senior speaks with an assured eloquence and his words bear almost no trace of the accent of his native Ethiopia. He is careful, confident and purposeful when he speaks, particularly about his ambitious life plan.
"I'm going to attend the Colorado School of Mines to study mechatronics," Tadesse said before accepting a $2,500 Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) scholarship during the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation Inaugural Gala held March 11. "I want to be a robotic engineer. I want to build amazing robots that will help our civilization."
Tadesse's story was one of countless examples of determination, perseverance and success on display at the Foundation's Inaugural Gala held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center. Students, teachers and staff from across the district joined community members of all backgrounds for the event, which featured performances, awards and honors. Billed as a "Celebration of Innovation," the gala served as a celebration of Cherry Creek students, teachers and staff. The celebration came in part thanks to dozens of sponsors, including Gold Sponsor 1stBank.
It was a recognition rooted in the core mission of the Foundation itself. The Cherry Creek Schools Foundation is dedicated to funding opportunities for all students in the district in innovative ways and helping build partnerships within the community. The program of the event spoke to those goals in myriad ways, from professionally produced videos to a heartfelt testimonial from Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull.
"At Cherry Creek, we believe in the strength of great neighborhood schools," Bull said in his speech to a crowd of more than 500. "When a child is inspired … nothing can stop them from achieving more … Each grant from the foundation helps our teachers inspire our students every day."
Those grants were plentiful in the past year, thanks to the generosity of Foundation donors. The Foundation funded more than $61,000 in Educator Initiative Grants, money that enables teachers to offer students added educational opportunities in every subject. What's more, the Foundation provided more than $50,000 in district-wide grants for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, special education and professional development.
Those funds made a direct impact for hundreds of students at dozens of schools, and the Inaugural Foundation provided a showcase for all of the important work. Specifically, students, teachers and staff from across the district had the opportunity to exemplify Cherry Creek's pursuit of excellence for a diverse crowd of community members.
Music ensembles and theater groups from Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek, Grandview, Overland, Smoky Hill and Eaglecrest high schools performed. Campus Middle School student Hannah Meg Weinraub delivered a rousing version of the National Anthem. After debuting a video that outlined the purpose and achievements of the Foundation, Stage 2 Studios Producer John Conn praised the district and its direct impact on students. Emcee and 7News Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson led a program that included awards for students and staff alike.
Those honors included the Catherine Canny Educator Advocate Award for Kathy Cavanaugh, the Champions of Education Honor for Catherine Canny, Giving Generations AVID Graduate with Distinction scholarships for Tadesse and Eaglecrest High School Senior Simon Menso and the 2015 Monte C. Moses Future Educator Scholarship for Overland High School student Alexandria D'Portillo.
Cherry Creek Schools Foundation Board Chair Judy Altenberg and CCSF Executive Director Jill Henden were on hand to personally recognize each of the honorees and speak to the importance of the organization's underlying mission.
"We believe that every student should have the opportunity to succeed," Altenberg said. "We cannot do that without your help … I thank you in advance for providing the future for our future."