The Power of Inclusion in Public Schools

By Alex Gordon

I am filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude and hope as I watch my eldest son graduate from high school and set out into the next chapter of his life.

He spent the last four years attending George Washington High School, a school that has a long history and has been going through its own rebirth over the last decade. As a product of Denver Public Schools along with my wife, we are supporters of a strong public-school system and the power of a diverse student body. He chose the school as it felt just right, and little did we know that it was a place where he would find his tribe and ultimately himself.

Within the first few weeks of his freshman year, he was cast in a version of Romeo and Juliet set not in fair Verona but in unfair 1920s Chicago where Mugsy and Capone lead their families in a heated rivalry. While his role was minor, it was here where the beauty of this inclusive environment would welcome and support all. Before the first show, the student director read a mission statement from the thespian troupe that vowed to foster, support, and encourage the diversity and equality that today’s society is continuing to wrestle with. The audience was then treated to a wonderful rendition of the Shakespearean story while staying true to its original creator’s vision, with gender-bending roles played by non-binary actors.

Our son had found his people and learned as much from his fellow artisans about humanity as any textbook or lecture could hope to convey. After four years of learning, exploration, and experimentation, our son walks out into the world with a well-rounded education in academics and life. His confidence in himself is only matched by his compassion and love for his fellow person. He embarks on his next stage with the understanding that the world is not just black or white, male or female, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, but filled with beautiful souls who will inspire him to achieve great things. We sat in amazement as he role modeled to his younger siblings what you get when you mix individual passion with a loving community, as he capped his high school career with a performance of “Sugar Daddy” by Hedwig & the Angry Inch in full drag.

While I look back on four years of amazing performances and tremendous growth for our son, I am grateful for a high school administration, faculty, and community that have embraced these students for who they are and not tried to fit them into predetermined boxes of societal expectations. I am equally filled with hope that these graduates reflect the positive movement our world is making towards broader inclusion and acceptance of ALL people. There is still work to be done, but for this proud father, we are on the right path.

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