Students take anti-obesity campaign to county commissioners

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Columbine High class gets real-world civics lesson

By Ramsey Scott

A group of Columbine High students saw government in action when they took proposals for fighting childhood obesity to the county commissioners.

The presentations were part of a class project by the school’s freshman government section. Five groups of four students each, selected from about 120 students total, pitched their action plans May 13 for battling childhood obesity and inactivity.

The groups suggested everything from social media to outdoor concerts to scavenger hunts as ways of getting kids outside and active.  

The two government teachers, Zack Martin and Jeff Garkow, reached out to the commissioners so their students’ work could double as a real-life experience. 

“(Garkow) and I thought, ‘Let’s get them involved with local government, because that’s more accessible and, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the place that has a lot more direct impact on your everyday life,’ ” Martin said. 

The two teachers contacted Commissioner Don Rosier, who was excited about the idea and recommended it to the full board. 

“We were approached by two wonderful teachers at Columbine High School on how to engage their government class in local government to feel as though they had a voice,” Rosier said during the presentation. “The hard work and dedication, the drive and determination of these students is amazing.”

The group decided it was important for the students’ work to be considered as actual policy proposals. Jeffco has agreed to consider elements of the project’s media campaigns in a possible anti-obesity effort. 

Each group presented to the board and then took follow-up questions from the commissioners and representatives of Jeffco Public Health. 

“They knew what they were working on could end up being used in Jefferson County or on buses and trains. It gave them extra motivation to do their best, and you saw that from most groups,” Martin said. “Even the ones that didn’t make it to the final presentation, they did a great job and tried to create something they were proud of.”

The five groups proposed fighting obesity in a variety of ways. One created a Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram accounts to urge teens to get outside. Another group proposed a music festival in Clement Park that would feature vendors of healthy food and multiple games. 

“Like a lot of teenagers, we don’t think anyone will listen to us and take us seriously. It was great because we knew they were going to listen,” said Rownyn Curry, 15. “Our group would like to pursue this because it would be really do-able, for sure. We found out the prices to have our posters printed. If we wanted, we could do this by ourselves, but it would be great to have the county behind us.”

Ryan Creger, 15, said knowing his teacher wouldn’t be the last person to see the work made the students try that much harder. 

“I think it changed it a little bit, because it wasn’t just another grade. It could actually help and make a change in the world,” Creger said. “Other people should do it and get involved in their government, because there’s not a government without the people. If we’re not going to get involved in local government, nothing’s going to change.”

While Martin isn’t teaching a government class next school year, Garkow said he plans to keep the project going for the next class of freshmen. 

“For them to be able to participate in the process and stand up in a public meeting and speak their minds, it’s so empowering for them,” Garkow said. “I hope they continue to use their voice and continue to make changes in the community, the state or the country.”  


Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine. Check www
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