Plenty of role models inspired Jordan Walton in her decision to become a teacher.
Walton, a senior at Overland High School, was the runner-up for the 2018 Dr. Monte C. Moses Future Educator Scholarship. Along with the first-place winner Grace Tucker and the 2017-18 Helen Lustig AVID Scholarship Winners Jair Thompson and Mara Wood, Walton was formally honored for her achievement during the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation's 25 Anniversary "Invest in Success" Gala held March 8 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center.
Before accepting the award before a crowd of hundreds of Cherry Creek School District community members, Walton spoke about her immediate plans to attend the University of Northern Colorado to study special education and eventually return to her home district to teach.
"I want to help build a brighter future, just like my teachers," Walton said. "Since I was little, I've always wanted to be a teacher. I just always pictured myself becoming a teacher."
Walton didn't have to leave home to find a dedicated teacher to look up to. Her mother, Stephanie Walton, is a para-educator at Overland High School. In finalizing her plans to enter the teaching profession, Jordan Walton is also continuing a family tradition.
"It means a lot to me. I'm very proud," Stephanie Walton said of her daughter's decision, adding that she's headed for a challenging profession that offers the best kind of inspiration as a reward for hard work. "With my special education students, no matter how I'm feeling, walking into that classroom and seeing their faces, knowing that they missed you, it makes everything so much better."
The Waltons' story was one of countless examples of determination, perseverance and success on display at this year's Foundation Gala, as community members came together to celebrate milestones and offer resources for students, teachers and future generations of learners. Sponsors like MDC Richmond American Foundation, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, JHL Constructors, DLR Group and dozens of others invested in the event itself and the larger, full-time operations of the Foundation.
Students, teachers and staff from across the district joined community members of all backgrounds for the event, which featured performances, awards and honors. More than 550 attended, and the event raised more than $300,000 for CCSD students, teachers and community members. The "Invest in Success" gala celebrated the future of innovation of the district, even as it acknowledged the contributions of those who have come before. Host Reggie Rivers led a program that included a tribute to Dr. Catherine Canny, who served 16 years in the district as a middle school principal and also earned the status of CCSF "Founder."
The evening also served as a celebration of CCSD Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull, who's set to retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
"For the first time in 55 years, I will not return to school this fall," Bull said at the tail end of a wide-ranging speech that touched on topics ranging from innovation to school safety to inclusive excellence. Bull spoke about the Foundation's work in supporting the district's commitment to an ever-evolving definition of excellence, one that seeks to connect students with the resources that will offer viable skills for the 21st century. "Every one of you has shown me the true meaning of excellence."
Bull's heartfelt speech came along with a formal acknowledgement of his contributions to the district. After Bull addressed the crowd, CCSF Executive Director Jill Henden announced the creation of the Dr. Harry Bull Future Innovator's Fund, which will support technology, innovative curricula and hands-on learning. Every dollar raised during the Gala would go into this new fund, Henden announced, as Bull's four children walked onto the stage to present their father with a custom designed award from the Foundation.
Joe Verrengia, Global Director of Arrow Electronics, which received the CCSF's 2018 Champion of Education honor, also announced that the company would be donating $50,000 to support future innovators. Moreover, Arrow will support the district's partnership with the Buck Institute for Education to support training for more than 500 teachers in project-based learning.
"We can't wait to see what happens next," Verrengia said.
The recognition of Bull's commitment to innovation, equity and deep intellectual exploration didn't come in a vacuum. These ideals are part of 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 Foundation is dedicated to instilling a love of learning in all CCSD students.
Jair Thompson, a 17-year-old senior from Smoky Hill High School who received one of the 2017-18 Helen Lustig AVID Scholarships, summed up that spirit as he spoke about his future plans. Like Jordan Walton, Thompson plans on returning to CCSD as a teacher after receiving his college degree.
"This scholarship means a whole lot. I didn't know exactly how I was going to pay for college," Thompson said. "This money is doing a lot for me and my plans. I want to come back and teach here."