Many working adults may wish they would’ve had the opportunity to explore different careers before deciding what to pursue. The Northeast Denver Leadership Week (NDLW) gives high school students this opportunity.
Founded in 2011 by District 11 City Councilman Chris Herndon, the program aims to grow the next generation of leaders by introducing them to a variety of careers. It is an annual five-day program for kids throughout Denver.
“I’ve definitely gotten to see jobs I wouldn’t have the chance to otherwise,” says Erin Clark, Stapleton resident and sophomore at DSST: Stapleton.
“I’m having the time of my life with every single event,” says Rebekah Amaro, a senior at South High School. The two girls became friends in the first five minutes, and by day three were having dinner together after camp. They laugh that they’re moving quickly. “I love every single part of networking and meeting new people and communicating with all the staff and hearing their stories of coming from a very small town or not having success, but eventually hooked up with the right people to become successful and become leaders,” Amaro says.
Each day of the program, three buses of students traveled to different sites: Monday they went to Kaiser Permanente and Denver International Airport; Tuesday the Denver Police Academy, Rocky Mountain Fire Academy and Denver Sheriff Department; Wednesday the Pepsi Center and FBI; Thursday The Urban Farm, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Johnson & Wales University, RK Mechanical and Forest City Stapleton; and Friday the University of Colorado Denver.
Many students were particularly struck by the visit to the Smith Road jail, where they toured the male and female units and different levels of security based on the crime an inmate commits. “I hope I never have to go back there. It was eye-opening and scary at points,” Clark says. At times, inmates hooted and hollered to get students’ attention, which they had been warned of by police officers. Many students felt bad for the inmates, despite whatever reason they went to jail. Some of the women were pregnant. With only one psychiatrist to serve the entire inmate population, services for inmates with mental disabilities were limited.
At the police department later that day, students went in a simulator with a fake gun to see how they react in situations cops experience regularly. Afterward they discussed making difficult decisions in high-adrenaline situations. The experience convinced Clark she may want to become a police officer; Amaro is now interested in advertising and marketing.
At the end of the week, both Clark and Amaro say they have a better idea of how to become a leader in whatever industry they decide to pursue—networking skills, confidence, and the power to stand out. “If you have confidence no matter what background you have, people are going to respect you and enjoy your company,” Amaro says.
To learn more about the Northeast Denver Leadership Week, visit northeastdenverleadershipweek.org or call Councilman Chris Herndon’s aide Amanda Schoultz at 720-337-7711.