On December 10, 2022, more than 1,500 guests from across the Denver metro area will come to the campus of Colorado Academy—many taking advantage of round-trip bus transportation provided at no charge by CA—to participate in HOPE, an annual event that offers free clothing, school supplies, toiletries, baby essentials, toys, food, medical care, fun activities, community services, and much more to families in need. Now in its 29th year, the entirely student-led initiative involves hundreds of members of the CA community, and it depends on donations—both material and financial—from scores of CA families.
“HOPE demonstrates the true power in the act and art of giving,” says Head of School Dr. Mike Davis. “It brings together students, faculty, staff, families, volunteers, and community members to create remarkable memories and moments. I am grateful to the student leaders who make this event a success each year.”
Seniors Zoe Cope, Andrew Koclanes, and Katherine Pulido, this year’s HOPE co-presidents, have been working throughout the fall to organize the special day. With many years of HOPE experience between them, these co-presidents are passionate about the difference the initiative can make for so many families.
“I’ve come to HOPE on the day of the event for six years,” says Pulido, “and it’s always incredible to see so many from the CA community connecting with people from the Denver area. There’s nothing else like it at CA.”
“Watching as the entire CA campus is transformed from a school environment to a charitable one is amazing,” Koclanes says. “My English teacher has served pie to families who come to HOPE every year he’s been at CA.”
Cope, who, just like Pulido and Koclanes, has been at CA since Kindergarten, says that she grew up being aware of HOPE. As soon as she arrived in the Upper School and was able to take part, she “fell in love” with the event. “My job that first year was to help kids on and off the bouncy house, and it showed me how much you can do for your community. We are so fortunate here at CA, and it’s great that we are able to rally everyone together to help those who are less so.”
Months of work
The amount of work that goes on behind the scenes, in the months leading up to the actual HOPE event, is impressive.
Beginning the first week of the school year, Cope, Koclanes, and Pulido recruited and trained a corps of directors, who in turn work with teams of associates to solicit donated items, oversee ongoing drives throughout the school, plan games and activities, arrange for food to be served, partner with organizations that can provide health care and other services, coordinate free bus transportation for the attendees,—many of whom come from shelters in the Denver metro area—and manage every other aspect of the day. All told, 60 to 70 Upper School students are officially involved in planning the event, with hundreds of additional volunteers from all three divisions participating during the main event.
The co-presidents also are in charge of the official HOPE website and all communications, such as solicitation letters that go to potential donors, flyers that are posted at community organizations throughout the Denver area, email messages to CA students and families, and more. They speak at Town Hall meetings in both the Upper School and the Middle School to sustain interest and involvement in HOPE throughout the fall. They manage the receipt and storage of donations and other items, and they are responsible for coordinating with CA’s Operations team to ensure spaces are available to welcome the huge influx of campus visitors on the day of the event.
“I admit, it requires a ton of time management,” Koclanes says. “But our HOPE faculty advisers [Upper School Math Department Chair Steve Hammer and Upper School Service Learning Coordinator Lisa Dean] keep reminding us that all this hard work is leading toward something amazing.”
Pulido adds, “Being a co-president this year is definitely a lot of work, but as I think about my time at CA coming to an end, I am really reflecting on the mark I want to leave on this place. You’re thinking about your legacy at a school where you’ve spent almost 14 years. I really believe the most important thing I can do for the CA community in my Senior year is HOPE.”
Extending the impact
This year’s co-presidents are aiming for HOPE to yield a larger impact than ever in 2022.
“One of the biggest things we’re focusing on this year is extending the benefit of this event beyond one day,” says Pulido. “So much planning goes into it, we want to make sure the help we provide lasts.”
Working with Lower School science teacher Jeff Goldstein, the three are excited to be developing a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) activity area for children at the event. “This is going to bring an educational component to HOPE for the first time,” says Cope. “We want kids, who might not be exposed to things like computer science, to leave the event feeling interested and inspired to learn more.”
Committed to offering services that will make a long-term difference for families, the group is also planning a resource center to provide assistance with employment, housing, and health insurance. Canned food will be another new addition designed to extend the impact of HOPE beyond a single day.
“Our goal this year is helping as many people as we can,” says Koclanes.
From privilege to pragmatism
Cope, Koclanes, and Pulido all agree that CA has awakened them to the privilege that they possess—and inspired them to turn that privilege into action on behalf of others.
“Throughout my entire CA career,” explains Pulido, “I’ve been able to experience so many initiatives that focus on using our privilege to give back—Horizons Colorado is a good example. CA does a really great job of fostering people who care.”
Koclanes adds, “As I’ve grown up here and my understanding of Colorado has broadened, I’ve been able to see just how many people need help. It’s great that we are able to use our resources and our campus to do that.”
“As much as we might understand how fortunate we are,” offers Cope, “I still think we can be a little bit stuck in a bubble here at CA. HOPE makes us get outside of that bubble and reach out to those in our community who are not in the same position.”
HOPE is not just about one day of service, the three co-presidents make clear. It is about taking stock of all the amazing people and resources in the CA community and opening our campus—and ourselves—to turn those assets to the benefit of those who need them most.