These three high school seniors couldn't stop smiling.
As hundreds gathered at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center for the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation's Invest In Success Gala on March 24, Overland High School students James Artis and Rashib Basnet stood with Jireh Pulley from Grandview. The trio's shared elation stood out among the crowd and together, they seemed to spread a positive attitude simply through their presence.
They had plenty of reason to be happy. Each had received a $5,000 Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college scholarship. Thanks to their commitment and hard work, each of these students had earned a valuable and viable key to a future career.
It made them feel like an important part of the celebration, an event which drew a diverse mix of local politicians, business owners and dignitaries, as well as teachers, students and administrators from the Cherry Creek School District.
"It's like they're celebrating students," said Artis, who's hoping to pursue a career in criminology. "It makes us feel special, like it's our night as well."
The effect on the students aligned with the basic mission of the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, which is dedicated to funding opportunities for all students in the district in innovative ways and helping build partnerships within the community. Though the celebration featured speeches, performances and a live auction, the real spirit of the night boiled down to supporting students.
"It's about relationships," said Pulley, who's served as team captain for Grandview's basketball team, worked as a representative for the Climate Team and the Cherry Creek School District Affinity Leadership Team. "It's having the ability to make contacts."
That fundamental mission came through in the presentations of scholarships and testimonials about the positive impact of the Foundation's work throughout the district. Grandview High School senior Rebecca Baravik, winner of the 2016 Monte Moses Future Educator Scholarship, summed up the importance of the Foundation and the district in her acceptance speech.
"I hope to repay this foundation and this district one day," said Baravik, who's planning on returning to the district as a teacher.
Students from across Cherry Creek offered similar messages of ambition, dedication and creativity. Music ensembles and theater groups from Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek, Grandview, Overland and Smoky Hill high schools performed. The Cherry Creek High School Union Street Jazz ensemble delivered a rousing version of the National Anthem. A blacklight theater troupe offered a compelling stage show, and emcee and 7News Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson led a program that included awards for students and staff alike.
Those honors included the Champion of Education Honor for Michele Beserra, the Giving Generations AVID Graduate with Distinction scholarships for Basnet, Pulley and Artis and the 2016 Monte C. Moses Future Educator Scholarship for Baravik and runners-up Brittany Berglund and Jacqueline Jimenez.
What's more, live auctions and other fundraising efforts garnered a record amount of donations from community members. Such generosity is what allowed the Foundation to make such a difference in the district during the 2015-16 school year, as they awarded more than $70,000 in grants that directly impacted the classroom.
"To continue to do that, we need you and your support," said Champion of Education Honoree and Foundation Director Michele Beserra.
That message, along with its impact for hundreds of students, resonated with Gala attendees this year.