DPS students learn firsthand from Mayor Hickenlooper and state legislators

Burg Simpson attorneys Reeves Whalen and Stephen Burg and CSG public relations specialist Dan Mahoney recently hosted an event for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. However, this was not your ordinary night for most Denver politicos. At the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, eight local students from the Denver Public Schools were on hand to meet some of their elected officials and representatives.

For the past two years, attorney Whalen has mentored brothers Matthew Carter and Joseph Benson through the Save Our Youth Mentorship program. For this special occasion he recruited some of their siblings, neighbors, and friends to participate in the event.

“I’ve known these kids and their families for years and this event gave me an opportunity to provide them with a really enriching experience,” said Whalen.

From left, Burg Simpson attorney Reeves Whalen, Rashaad Woodard, Christina Carter, Matthew Carter, Jasmine Leon, Demetrey Fulks, Matise Baca, Mayor John Hickenlooper, Joseph Benson and attorney Stephen Burg.

The event was attended by Mayor Hickenlooper, DU law professors Jan Laitos, Arthur Best and Dan Vigil, as well as young Denver business professionals and numerous members of the state legislature who came out to show their support and mingle with students from North High School, East High School, West High School, South High School, Lake Middle School, Kepner Middle School, and Aurora Hills.

“Through mentoring, I’ve become acutely aware of the advantages I’ve had in my life,” said Whalen. “If we are lucky, years from now, maybe a few of them will look back and say ‘I met someone who inspired me that evening and this event helped change the direction of my life,’” he continued.

State Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, spent some time talking with the students, “It is extremely important to inspire youth who come from challenging environments to dream big and to realize that they have unique gifts and talents.”

State Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, agreed. “Exposing urban youth to events like this is very important, it shows them the importance of our democratic process, and allows them to realize that nothing is stopping them from becoming the future leaders of our communities,” he said.

Prior to the Mayor’s arrival, the students snacked on appetizers, drank root beer from the Wynkoop Brewery, and chatted with those in attendance on topics ranging from favorite classes, teachers, and summer jobs. Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, said, “The opportunity to speak directly with elected officials, ask questions and see the inner operations of the system working should get them started on the road to participating in the political process.”

The kids asked some great questions, ranging from the cost of participating in high school athletics to advice on pursuing post-graduate careers in the military compared to opportunities in higher education for Colorado students. Crisanta Duran, candidate for state representative in House District 5, shared her thoughts on interacting with the young students at the event.

“I learned early on, if a legislator really wants to make a difference, he or she needs to learn and understand the issues that affect the local community,” Duran said.

Hickenlooper answered questions from the audience and those prepared in advance by the students as the evening came to a close. But first the Mayor personally introduced himself to all of the students, inquiring about the schools they attended. He even took time to participate in a group photo.

“In my time working with kids, you would be surprised how little it takes, with some support and guidance, to ignite a passion and inspire a youth. I think tonight was a rewarding experience for everyone,” stated Whalen.

“If even one kid is inspired, then it is all worth it,” said co-host Stephen Burg.