Vail Valley woman leads effort to help low-income Denver middle school
Heather Romero works with local shop to provide uniforms for school that can't afford them
Heather Romero lives in the Vail Valley and, like many of us, has family in Denver, including three nieces, on whom she dotes.
“I’m a very good aunt,” she said smiling.
Romero was watching one of her nieces play middle school volleyball when she noticed that, among the 15 players on a team from another school, only two had kneepads. No one’s uniform matched anyone else’s.
She watched and asked questions — lots and lots of questions. She learned that Henry Middle School, which is part of the Denver School of Science and Technology charter school network, couldn’t afford the gear for its players.
“Someone should do something about this,” she thought to herself.
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That someone was Romero.
“If you see something that needs to be done, do something about it,” Romero said.
Think locally, act globally
DSST Henry’s student body is mostly low-income and minority. Its athletic teams don’t have uniforms or much of anything else.
Romero donated some money and time and then started working her network. She approached Curt Harris of Gypsum-based Trick Threads, asking if he would create some uniforms. The shop would, Harris said. The DSST Henry boys and girls teams will be wearing their school’s maroon for every sport.
“It’s a great project,” Harris said.
Harris and Romero have done this before, quietly making sure uniforms end up on kids who need them.
“She has a good heart,” Harris said.
Harris’ athletic roots run deep. He played high school and college basketball. His father coached high school basketball in his native Arkansas for 31 years, winning 82% of his games.
“As soon as we could walk we were dribbling a basketball,” said Harris, who still plays in an EagleVail weekend rec league.
Henry’s huge heart
DSST Henry opened in 2016 and tends to live on Denver Public Schools’ back burner.
“It comes down to a funding issue. Our school has been through some pretty tumultuous times,” said Marcus Pumphrey, the school’s dean of eighth-grade students.
In the past, others have taken note of Henry students’ socioeconomic situation and come forward, but follow-through is rare, Pumphrey said.
“This is the first time people who actually made those observations have followed through,” Pumphrey said.
Romero is relentless, and that has led to an enormous number of positive changes in a short time, Pumphrey said.
“I’ve been in education for a long time. I’ve heard a lot of people say something should be done,” Pumphrey said.
Pumphrey, 42, is also the school’s Effective Needs dean — for students who have suffered psychological, emotional or physical trauma — as well as the school’s athletics director.
“I have my hands full, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Pumphrey said.
He has some perspective on other things in this world. He earned a law degree from a school in Akron, Ohio, but would rather do this.
The staff appears to agree with him.
“You have a group of adults who take on more in a day than anyone should in a year. They come back the next day for more,” Pumphrey said.