Check out the happenings in Douglas County School District


Students gather to celebrate CPPW program's 1st birthday

DENVER - It's been a year since the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant began making a difference in the Denver area, encouraging kids to get more active and eat healthier. On Thursday, students from several participating districts, including Douglas County, joined together to celebrate the milestone.

The goal of the two-year $10.5 million grant, which was awarded to the Tri-County Health Department, is to increase opportunities for residents in Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties to make healthier choices. Most of the money is being provided to schools, to implement programs that lead to sustainable change in communities.

The Director of the Tri-County Health Department says the CPPW grant has already made an impact on our community, by helping kids make their health a priority.

"Being active is so important to a young person's life because it will prevent the development of diabetes and heart disease later in life. You're never too young to start these healthy habits," said Dr. Richard L. Vogt.

In Douglas County, funds have been used to create school gardens, build sidewalks and organize events that encourage fitness, like the Fittin' It In 5K. Plus, many kids across the District are taking part in the Flat 14ers program that was started as part of the grant. The program encourages students, teachers, staff, and parents to trek the equivalent of Colorado's 14ers in their own neighborhoods. Each step, as well as other physical activities, count toward the goal of "climbing" all of the state's peaks.

A total of 20 Douglas County students from Mesa, Castle Rock, Mountain Ridge, Rocky Heights and Sierra Middle Schools attended Thursday's event. Several of the teachers who lead the programs were also present.

DCHS student receives prestigious Horatio Alger Scholarship

CASTLE ROCK - In April, a senior from Douglas County High School will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to accept a prestigious scholarship.

Blake Whittemore learned earlier this year that he was one of only two students in Colorado to be named national 2012 Horatio Alger Foundation Scholars.

"I was definitely surprised. It is a long shot to win out of 50,000 [applicants]," Whittemore said.

Nine other Colorado students were named Colorado Scholars by the organization.

In addition to a scholarship, the National Scholars are flown to Washington for a leadership conference and awards ceremony. The group will also have a chance to do a little sightseeing and meet others who have won the scholarship in years past.

As part of the application process, Whittemore wrote an essay about how he was similar to one of the foundation's alums. In his essay, Whittemore talked about the challenges he overcame in his childhood. He was both dyslexic and had an auditory processing disorder.

"Growing up, school was always a struggle," Whittemore said. "At an early age I decided that I did not want to be in the special classes. I wanted to be to do well in school and to do something with my life. So I made it a point to always give 110 percent."

With a lot of perseverance Whittemore was able to overcome those hurdles, becoming an eighth-grade valedictorian at Academy Charter and achieving a 4.2 GPA at Douglas County High School.

Currently Whittemore is applying for colleges in the Northeast and plans to manage sports management. He says he would love to work in the front office of a sports team one day.

Ponderosa theatre brings home trophies

PARKER- Ponderosa students made their own magic at Disneyland during the National Musical Theatre Competition.

The competition took place during the weekend of February 9. Ponderosa was the only high school in Colorado invited to attend, and were matched up with some of the best high school theatre departments in the country. The students had entries in a variety of different aspects of show business, such as set design, ensemble and solo vocal numbers, and dance.

Ponderosa won fourth place for their musical review ensemble piece, plus the following students took home trophies:

Caitlin Smith-3rd place costume design

Becca Schell-2nd place set design

Jessica Jani-3rd place Junior soloist

Montana O'Brian-Best Female Dancer

Danielle Laferriere and Austin Preister were chosen out of 700 students to dance in a professionally choreographed number.

Students have a wild time in science class

DENVER - A lot of kids get to go to the zoo on field trips every year, but a group of students from Cresthill Middle School got an up close look at the zoo's animals.

As part of the zoo's Young Scientists program, the students had the opportunity to practice ethology-the study of animal behavior. Cresthill students took detailed notes on the behavior of the animals they observed. They also learned about what it takes to create habitats for the animals that would encourage habits and behavior that would be found in the wild.

The Denver Zoo's Young Scientist program provides teacher training, three in-class lessons with live animals, and two visits to the zoo.

STEM BEST Robotics Team takes top prize at state competition, 5th in regionals

HIGHLANDS RANCH - The STEM Academy BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics Team advanced to a regional competition after placing first in the state event.

The team placed first at the Rocky Mountain Best of the BEST Awards, which was held at the Auraria Campus Event Center on October 23, 2011. The robotics team then advanced to the regional competition of Frontier Trails BEST, held at the University of Arkansas on December 8-10, 2011. STEM Academy finished in fifth place.

The STEM BEST team also took home the Founders Award for Creative Design, awarded to the team that makes the best use of the engineering process in consideration of offensive and defensive capabilities in machine design; first place in Marketing Presentation; and third place in Game Day Competition.

Members of the team are Kathryn Bacon, Ryan Bacon, Robert Belter, Srikar Chandana, Grayson Gerlich, Andrew Gray, Andrew Hardy, Andy Hegemann, Kaysi Koslov, Dakotah Mann, Sage Mann, Anirudh Mathukumilli, Ben O'Brien, Connor Simpson, andy Wagner and Chris Wagner. Team coaches are Joel and Tami Kirkland; team parent mentors are Chris Gray and Al Hagemann.

BEST is a middle and high school robotics competition with a mission to engage and excite students about engineering, science, and technology, and inspire them to pursue careers within these fields. Each fall, more than 11,000 students from over 750 middle and high schools participate in local and regional competitions.

Mountain Ridge Middle School student raises money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

HIGHLANDS RANCH - Delaney Livingston, a seventh-grader at Mountain Ridge Middle School, is participating in the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Math-A-Thon, raising money to fight childhood cancer. This is Livingston's seventh year in the Math-A-Thon, and she will be solving 200 math problems in hopes of raising $3,000.

Delaney supports St. Jude to honor the memory of her best friend Jordan, who died from cancer. "Because of Jordan, I know a lot about friendship, but I also know a lot about what kids with cancer go through and how much courage they have, Livingston said. "It means a lot to me to help however I can."

In addition to raising money for St. Jude, Livingston is a member of the Interact Club at Mountain Ridge Middle School, which is dedicated to community and international service. Livingston loves to help others, and is appreciative of her fellow students and teachers who are helping her make a difference by supporting Math-A-Thon.

Livingston is currently more than halfway to her goal. Anyone interested in sponsoring her can visit her website at to donate.

STEM School and Academy Technology Student Association (TSA) team captures third place at state competition

HIGHLANDS RANCH - The STEM School and Academy won third place in the middle school division of the Technology Student Association's (TSA) state competition recently.

Thirty-five STEM students competed with over 700 students from across Colorado in a three-day event held at the Marriott Denver Tech Center. The group brought home 39 medals in technical events.

The Technology Student Association is open to students enrolled in or who have completed technology education courses. TSA's membership includes over 150,000 middle and high school students in 2,000 schools spanning 48 states. The organization sponsors competitions at middle and high school levels, with challenges in areas such as agriculture and biotechnology design, electrical applications, environmental focus, invention and innovation, video game design and website design

The STEM Team members are: Guilherme Alves, Haley Bamford, Lauren Brown, Pazleen Chopra, Colby Deel, Kathryn Driscoll, Frasier Feight, Cyra Gallano, Grayson Gerlich, Geremy Goldman, Casey Gouge, Andrew Groeling, Jackson Grove, Cody Klein, Olivia Kreski, Licia Lamb, Garrett Marsh, Scott McIntyre, Joshua Menrala, Philip Miceli, Nicholas Palmer, Jada Price, Chip Reid, Sara Saeed, Zachary Santarelli, Samyuktha Senthilkumar, Wally Shallenberger, Audrey Shearer, Cole Simpson, Conor Tabor, Keric Warton, Mark Worthington, Alec Yagey and Nathaniel Yardney. The team sponsors are Mike Shallenberger and Barry Brannberg.

Early Education Adventure provides fun learning opportunity for kids, information for parents

HIGHLANDS RANCH-Young children might have the opportunity to see a snake or other animals for the first time at the animal demonstration at the Early Education Adventure at the Wildlife Experience. The event will be held March 3 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Last year was the first year the Douglas County Early Childhood Coalition (DCECC) organized the event; based on the success of the first event, the group decided to host the event again this year.

Sandy Gregory, the director of the Early Childhood Coalition said, "We talked about what would be a really great, fun way to get information about resources out to parents and when we figured out we could hold it at the Wildlife Experience, we decided to make it an event complete with a number of fun activities. We had over 1400 parents with young children attend last year's event and I think it was received very successfully."

Some of the fun activities at the Early Education Adventure are a puppet show, a music performance, and an obstacle course for the kids.

For the parents, there are experts to answer their questions about preschools and medical care, including representatives from the Arapahoe Douglas Mental Health Network, Tri-County Health Department and even the Douglas County Libraries.

"They can address questions about classes and story times for parents who want to become more educated about how to improve their children's learning behaviors" Gregory said.

If you want to learn more about early childhood education or the festival, you can visit the DCECC's website at



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