Gypsum’s New America School to graduate 12 |

Gypsum’s New America School to graduate 12

Katie Drucker
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/EnterprisePrincipal Kathy Brendza, center right, laughs as she reads over an essay written by New America School senior Jesus Amancio, far left. Looking on are seniors Amadou Keneme, right, and Ana DeLa Rosa, center left.

GYPSUM, Colorado ” Hugs, ‘I love yous,’ and calling the principal ‘mom’ is typical at the New America School in Gypsum.

The school was founded by Internet entrepreneur Jared Polis, now running to represent Eagle County in Congress. Polis grew up in Colorado and has a home the Eagle Valley.

He decided to start the New America School after he sat on the Colorado State Board of Education for six years, listening to the trials and tribulations of new immigrants in the school system, he says.

He was amazed at how the state failed to serve this particular group of students, he says.

“Many older students simply didn’t have a school to go to,” Polis says. “So I created a school to properly serve these students so they can succeed in this country.”

There are four New America Schools in Colorado ” in Aurora, Northglenn, Lakewood and Gypsum. The schools are public charter high schools where recent immigrants can learn English.

Polis also paid all the start-up costs ” from renovating the building in Gypsum to buying G4 Mac computers. He previously served as the New America School superintendent and is now an active board member.

“He is truly the spearhead of it all,” says New America School principal Kathy Brendza.

The Gypsum school opened in the fall of 2007. Students attend from up and down the valley.

There is a huge need for this type of educational opportunity in this valley ” the service industry employs many immigrants and their children deserve a chance, Brendza says.

“Ms. Kathy is a wonderful person,” says student Jesus Amancio. “She helps us a lot. She is our hero.”

Ninety percent of the young adults at the New America School in Gypsum do not live with their parents. Eight of the female students have children of their own. Most of the students have health problems, Brendza says.

“I am most proud of the students,” Polis says. “Nearly every student has been overcoming adversity … and still continue to come to school,”

Brendza and the staff at the New America School also help students get green cards, apply for scholarships for college, get jobs, get medical care and even provide the students with warm home-cooked meals daily.

Every night Chris Kuglin, the secretary, cooks food in a crockpot and brings it to school so the kids can share a good meal, Brendza says.

Student Amadou Keneme says when he needed his tooth pulled, Brendza paid for everything.

“Ms. Kathy handed me her credit card and paid for the dentist, for the medicine, everything,” Keneme says. “She buys everything for sick people here. Or when you need help she helps you.”

Brendza and other school employees raise money to provide students with essentials for survival. However, generosity is mutual at the New America School.

“One student gave me a sweater for Christmas. And the kid has nothing,” Brendza says. “Talk about giving your shirt of your back.

“They are giving so much more than they are taking,” she continues. “They are hard working and they never complain about working. They never complain about the little money they are making.

“We have so much to learn from them.”

On June 14, 12 students will graduate from the New America School.

Brendza says all 12 are stellar students. Some have attended day and night school to make sure they have enough credits. All the graduates at the Gypsum school work in addition to attending classes.

“The level of commitment that takes is commendable,” Polis states.

Although excited to graduate, Keneme says he never wants to move away from Colorado because he always wants to be able to see Brendza and the New America School staff.

“I will remember them and keep in touch with them for the rest of my life,” Keneme notes.

Next year, a day-care facility will open at the New America school. The school also hopes to increase enrollment.

“It continues to grow beyond our expectations because of such a large demand,” Polis says. “There is more potential across the state and the United States with this educational model.”

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User