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High School African - American teacher distributing a school exam

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Over in northeast Denver, an “HBCU-style” high school has opened.

Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy centers people of color and mirrors the experiences students find at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Prior to higher learning, most Black and POC kids don’t have the option of an educational experience tailored to African American and ethnic history. They are instead taught through the lens of white colonialism, but — at the high school level — Smith Academy’s curriculum “infuses” stories about people of color in EVERY class offered.

“There is a persistent erasure of the Black experience, of Latinx and indigenous experiences in this nation and world. Our focus is to really center the experience of those of us who have been marginalized and minoritized. We are not, by nature of our existence, ‘less than.’ But our stories have not been valued in the same ways,” Principal Shakira Abney-Wisdom tells “Our school’s existence is just an act of resilience and resistance to oppressive structures in society. This is a sanctuary, really, a safe space for our scholars to be all that they are, and to grow, to challenge themselves, to challenge one another, to accomplish the goals that they have.”

Like BIPOC culture in general, Smith Academy seems full of vigor and creativity. When Principal Abney-Widsom shouts to her kids, “I have high expectations for you,” the students match her energy with “We have high expectations for ourselves.”

As for what brought along the idea to launch the school, cofounder Samantha Pryor tells Denverite: “We wanted to create a high quality option in our neighborhood, because a lot of our kids were going outside of our neighborhood, traveling long distances across the city, to find quality options.”

It’s as simple as that — the community has been in need and they answered the call. Read the full profile on Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy HERE.