On Thursday, November 2nd of 2017, a vehicle carrying students from Manual High School in Denver pulled up to Weld Central High School in Keenesburg, over a month after the two schools took sides over accusations of racism geared toward WC. These accusations blew up media statewide and split communities in a debate that lasted for weeks until a joint letter was released from Principal Kennedy of WC and Principal Nick Dawkins of Manual, as well as the superintendents of both school districts. This letter was intended to address the issue in a positive light, and encourage the communities and schools to move forward. It also informed people that the schools were planning to give the students the “opportunity to visit each other’s schools and communities,” which they eventually did. The visit, meant to be one of the first steps in the healing process, brought the unresolved issue to the surface, along with all of the emotions that some students and adults still had not been able to deal with. Even with these emotions, the students reacted in an unexpected, but inspiring way.
While some “negative reactions” were present, at least in Weld Central, according to Natalie Calderon, there were also many students who acted with maturity. Ms. Devoe, StuCo Sponsor and supervisor of the visit, declared that she is “proud of both sets of kids [because they] handled themselves maturely and responsibly. Everyone was respectful.” That respect included students who weren’t even involved with the game but nevertheless were caught in the crossfire. Trent Torres, a member of student council at WC, expressed many positive feelings about their visit to Manual, saying that they were “really open and welcoming.” Principal Kennedy agreed with these conclusions, saying that by the end of the visit, he’d determined that the Manual representatives were just “great kids.” With a sense of wonder, Torres noted that they were “just like us.” WC members weren’t the only ones to see the similarities. Ani Vasquez, a senior at Manual, wrote an article based off of her experience visiting WC that was published on the website of The Denver Post (the link is below). In the opinion-based article, Vasquez offered a glimpse into her mentality as she observed that she and her classmates had “noticed the many similarities between our school in the middle of Denver and theirs in rural Weld County.” Vasquez conveyed the deep hurt and anger of the students in her commentary that no one dared to acknowledge until it was directly addressed. Now that those feelings have been let out into the open, they’ve been released from the cage of the hearts of our students, and we can finally heal.
Vasquez admitted that we are not always going to find “open-minded” people and that it’s going to be difficult to break down the stone walls of “racism and misconception.” Evidence of her statement is found in Wyatt Thyfault, senior at WC and Varsity football player, who joked that he “probably would’ve been jumped” by the Manual students. While he wasn’t serious, and ensured that interviewers knew that, Thyfault’s jest had a tint of truth to it, in that he honestly believed that being jumped was a possibility. Whether this belief was passed on from classmates, teachers, or relatives, the fact remains that it is there. Vasquez takes the stance that “these stereotypes had been implanted into our heads only from ignorance and past experiences of racism and misconception.”
Thyfault also expressed that he was “upset” that he wasn’t given the opportunity to meet with the representatives. He explained that he “would’ve been okay [during the visit]” and would have been pleased with the privilege of airing everything out, such as the likely false accusations, which he claimed were “really messed up.” Thyfault’s football coach, Mr. Canaday, gave no comment on the most complicated pieces of the issue, but did desire to remind students that “the way society is today, I think that it’s important that we all get along.” It was clear in the perusal of the aforementioned football members that they have “let it go” according to Thyfault.
A major vision of Thyfault’s includes an apology from the principal of Manual, Nick Dawkins, and while everything is possible, his action of not taking the time to meet WC’s representatives speaks louder than any words that anyone could have said. Kennedy stated that “on our end of it, we felt it was super important for me to be a part of the day as the leader of the school.” He conceded to the fact that “our kids didn’t meet Manual’s principal,” as did Devoe, who said that “it would’ve been nice to meet [him]; however, Devoe was quick to defend Dawkins, bringing up the amount of work that goes into being a principal.
In the end, the positive effects of the visit won out over any negative connotations. Students came out with changed perspectives and a pressing desire to spread the age-old tonic of hope. Vasquez proclaimed that “this student exchange was so powerful that we began talking about what our next steps were going to be–steps to share this experience with the student body at our schools.” It is almost certain that both WC and Manual are looking forward to the benefits that will come into their communities.