KUSA - Upon entering Escuela Tlatelolco, you can tell that it's different from other schools. The day starts off with a buenos dias and the walls are decorated with colorful murals to instill cultural pride.
This was a mission that the founders hoped for their students more than 40 years ago.
Escuela Tlatelolco was founded by the crusade for justice by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez and Geraldine Gonzalez along with other activists in the Chicano civil rights movement.
"They founded Escuela Tlatelolco as an alternative to the kind of inequality in education and academic success in education in the public schools in the 1960s," recalls Nita Gonzales, daughter of Corky Gonzales and President of Escuela."The whole mindset of education, public education in the southwest was one that you can't succeed."
On March 16, 1969, a group of Latino students walked out of a DPS school in protest of the discrimination they were experiencing in the classroom and derogatory comments from a teacher. The students from West High were fed up with the quality and lack of education they were receiving.
"The walkout occurred in 1969 and here we are in 2013 and we still struggle with low achievement rate, high dropout rate, low graduation rate and we still struggle with curriculum that doesn't embrace who and what we are and our history and our contributions to this land, to this place, " said Nita passionately.
But Escuela Tlatelolco aims to change those expectations. Their graduation rate since 2007 is 90 percent, 73 percent have completed undergraduate college degrees, and 22 percent have completed master degrees. By offering a curriculum that teaches about Chicano ancestry, students are able to learn about the important role they play in the school, city, state, and country, something that wasn't encouraged at the time of the West High walkout.
Escuela Tlatelolco's curriculum also includes a strong social justice foundation. "It's helping people not only have the academic skill but the social and political skill to make change in their community and their world. To be activists and catalysts for that change."
Through Nita, her father's legacy continues to be a part of this community, even though some of the children are still too young to know who the man on the wall is. "I thank him every day. I thank him, I thank my mother, I thank the other parents that were all part of this crusade for justice that made this happen and that we would have this institution still today."
This academic legacy also continues within the students as former graduates now have their grandchildren and children attending the school as well. In the future, Nita hopes to replicate this model in other Chicano communities in Colorado.
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