DENVER — Montbello has faced challenges when it comes to education, and it’s something people in the community acknowledge.
"One of the biggest challenges that Montbello has faced or has been subjected to is the lack of autonomy in making decisions that we know is best for us and our students," said Kiera Jackson with the Montbello Organizing Committee.
But starting now, the ball is in their court with the creation of the Robert F. Smith STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) Academy.
"There’s a demand and need for something that didn’t exist, so we had to design something and we think that we’ll be very effective in meeting needs," said Brandon Pryor, one of the founding members of the academy.
Pryor said the academy will share a campus with the Montbello Career and Technology High School. Having STEAM education in Black and brown neighborhoods is crucial in creating a pathway to success for students, Pryor said.
"Those fields are taking off — science, technology, engineering — and we want to get our kids involved in all of those fields," Pryor said.
The Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy will be a district-run high school modeled after historically Black colleges and universities.
"A STEAM focus is particularly important as we look for the ways that our cultures are shifting, our societies are shifting. It’s global and, so the impact the computer and technology has is not going to go away. It will only become more integrated as time progresses," said Shakira D. Abney-Wisdom, principal of the academy.
Although they are a Denver Public School, there are plans to change their status in the long run.
"We plan to apply for innovation status and we also plan to create an innovation zone," Pryor said. "With that we will have our own board to govern the group of schools that exist within our zone."
It will give them the autonomy they’ve been searching for.
"Our kids are brilliant and they should be graduating school knowing how to code. They should be graduating school just being the brilliant mathematicians that I already know that they are," Jackson said.
They anticipate a bright future for many Montbello students, slated to begin August of next year.