Third Graders Unite

Originally published in The Greater Park Hill News on July 1st, 2019.

May 23 Was A Day To Remember

In the April edition of the Greater Park Hill News, we shared with you an overview of our organization, Park Hill Neighbors for Equity in Education (PHNEE) – including pivotal work being done in three main focus areas: awareness building, shared resources and policy changes.

Last month, PHNEE’s own Laura Lefkowits continued to build awareness by providing a thoughtful article on the impact of Brown vs. the Board of Education 65 years later, while our policy team was hard at work drafting recommendations to promote equity in our Park Hill schools.

Perhaps the most exciting recent development for PHNEE, however, was the first annual One Park Hill Day hosted by the shared resources team.

Thanks to the generous contributions of the McAuliffe Staff and student SHINE Leaders, Park Hill Collective Impact, The School of Breaking, Denver Parks and Rec, and many principals, teachers, paraprofessionals and students, all third graders from Hallett, Park Hill Elementary, Smith and Stedman united together on May 23 at the Smiley campus for a day of joy, laughter and community-building.

After a rousing welcome from PHNEE co-chair and Park Hill Collective Impact executive director James Roy, the third graders were treated to a break dance performance from the Aurora-based dance studio, School of Breaking. The performers not only delivered an incredible show, but also spoke about the importance of character-building principles, such as perseverance, authenticity, and always trying to do your best. Some students even had the opportunity to join the dancers on stage and show off some of their own skills.

Park Hill Branch librarian Tara Bannon Williamson also spoke about a range of upcoming opportunities at both neighborhood libraries over the summer, including the Summer of Adventure reading program, and a book club for kids.

Every student received a One Park Hill wristband in one of eight different colors. Each color coded group included students from all four schools who spent the rest of the day together in small groups, providing a rare opportunity for these future middle or high school classmates to bond.

They learned and practiced a routine from one of the break dance instructors and then moved outdoors for community building activities led by Denver Parks and Recreation. Despite the cold weather and varying levels of experience with break dancing, the students were all smiles throughout the day. The day concluded with a pizza party sponsored by McAuliffe.

This day was a fun and exciting way for neighborhood children to meet and make memories, while also laying the groundwork for the vision PHNEE hopes to bring to life: a community focused on equity in education and opportunities for all children to thrive.

The children at this amazing event were all third grade students who attend DPS schools in the neighborhood. While their skin color, culture, socioeconomic status and school experience vary tremendously, that shouldn’t mean their opportunities do. With events such as this, we have the chance to unite our diverse neighborhood of exceptional learners, helping them discover their shared humanity. We are all One Park Hill and proud.

Do you have an idea for other ways we can unite our Park Hill students? Whether you’re a parent or grandparent, a school staff member, or a concerned resident, your voice matters in making change, and we want to hear from you!

Erin Pier is a mother of three, Stedman parent, and school psychologist at the Academy of Urban Learning, in Denver. She is an active member of PHNEE. Check out PHNEE’s Facebook page or send an email to