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Virtual CCSF Gala highlights resiliency, strength and hope

CCSF Executive Director Jill Henden during the "Invest in Success" Gala held March 11. Physical distance didn’t stop the Cherry Creek School District community from uniting in unprecedented ways during the past year.

During the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation annual gala held on March 11, the organization’s Executive Director Jill Henden recalled how, during a year of unparalleled challenges, the district united. She pointed to the food drives, the book giveaways, the personal protective equipment (PPE) manufactured in CCSD schools and the other inspiring shows of solidarity, kindness and support that have taken place over the past 12 months.

“During a time when we were physically apart, our community has come together in ways that have amazed me,” Henden said.

She spoke during a CCSF Gala that looked very different from past celebrations. For years, the event has been a chance for Foundation staff to gather with CCSD students, parents, teachers and community members in-person and celebrate the accomplishments of the district. The event has also offered attendees the opportunity to directly contribute to the CCSF’s mission: funding opportunities for all students in the district in innovative ways and helping build partnerships within the community.

Instead of an in-person get-together, this year’s “Invest in Success” gala followed a virtual model. Henden joined host Reggie Rivers, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried, student performers and other speakers from a remote Aurora 8 television studio, and attendees tuned into the program from their laptops and cellphones.

The physical distance didn’t dim the impact of the event. The online gala served as an opportunity to celebrate the strength and accomplishments of the district after a challenging year; it was a chance to celebrate the work and legacy of Siegfried, who will retire from his post as CCSD superintendent after the 2020-21 school year. It was a chance to spotlight the accomplishments of district alums, to look to upcoming district goals and priorities. Eaglecrest High School alum and accomplished stage actor Gregory Treco performed a song from the smash hit “Hamilton.” Renowned author, educator and performer Steve Spangler (a former Willow Creek Elementary teacher) offered the kind of engaging, interactive science lesson that’s earned him spots on national television.

The online event was also a chance for the entire CCSD community to show their support, and they didn’t disappoint. All told, the event raised more than $250,000 for students, teachers, staff and families in the Cherry Creek School District. This year’s gala was made possible thanks in part to the Foundation’s partnership with sponsors like JHL Constructors, Cigna, MDC Holdings, Inc., Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Westerra Credit Union, Ed and Kacy Adams, Alpine Bank, Aon Empower Results, Butler Snow, Horace Mann, The District Credit Union, DLR Group, Feingold Horton, 1stBank, GE Johnson, J.P. Morgan, Kaiser Permanente, Plante Moran, Saunders, Credit Union of Colorado and M.A. Meyer Construction.

The impressive sum raised at the Gala came after a year of hard work and consistent investment from the Foundation. Shortly after the true scope of the global COVID-19 pandemic became apparent, the CCSF created the Cherry Creek Schools Emergency Relief Fund. This resource helped the district support students, teachers, staff and families during the crisis; it funded meals, books, technology and a host of other supplies that directly impacted the community.

Nearly a year to the day after Siegfried first announced that CCSD schools would close an additional week after the 2020 spring break to deal with the growing COVID-19 crisis, he reflected on the past year. Siegfried spoke about the biggest challenges, the shared loss and common sense of purpose that have emerged from the past 12 months.

He tied all of these observations to the subject at hand, namely, the core mission of the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation.CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried during the "Invest in Success" gala held March 11.

“I believe that success for every student, pandemic or not, takes the entire community. That is why the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation is so important,” Siegfried said. “The development and nurturing of important relationships, the ability to raise funds to support teachers and students, and the implementation of grants and scholarships is essential to support the innovative process.  Additionally, as you have heard, the Foundation played a critical role this year helping those in need with items such as food, school supplies and access to the internet.

“Based on your generosity, they were able to respond without question or hesitation when the need was identified,” he added, “Thank you for being a part of the greatness in our community.”

Siegfried also reflected on his 28 years in the Cherry Creek School District, a tenure that’s included roles as teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent. After nearly 30 years with Cherry Creek Schools, and after a year unlike any other, Siegfried said he’s confident about the direction and the future of district, its mission and its community.

“Through our Future Forward strategic plan … our roadmap to the future is clear and in place,” he said. “Our goal is a pathway of purpose for every student and, with the unprecedented support seen in our November election, we are able to move forward with projects such as our mental health center, school-based health centers, Cherry Creek Innovation Campus expansion, high school innovation centers, and many other projects.”

Those priorities and values will persist after Siegfried’s time as superintendent, he said, thanks in no small part to the investment, dedication and support of the community through the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation.

Posted 3/12/2021 at 4 PM