The Gallaghers and Flahertys of North Denver were happy that John F. Kennedy got elected president. My grandmother, Nora O’Donovan Flaherty, my mom’s mom from County Cork in Ireland, told me how delighted she was that that nice man from Boston took down the “no Irish Catholic need apply” sign from the White house. JFK appointed his brother-in-law Sergeant Shriver to head up the Peace Corps. Americans then had an official government outlet to serve people in other countries and learn their culture and language, making the world a better place.
I remember the first time I met Melanie Grant at Regis University in the Science Amphitheater. It was in the early 1970s, when she was showing old-fashioned slides to Regis students and faculty and telling her story of being in JFK’s Peace Corps. She had served in Africa and told how that experience of travel and language opened this gracious, unassuming young woman up to learning the culture of another country and helping make the world a better place. She has been marching to that tune ever since, and her passion helps others want to follow in her footsteps.
After her stint in the Peace Corps, Melanie came back home to Colorado and reflected on Denver Public Schools’ available opportunities for students to develop the four domains of global competence and civic virtue, as she had in the Peace Corps. She found the choices wanting. So in 1977, she acted. She founded the Denver Center for International StudiesFoundation (DCIS), which has given Denver students and teachers over $550,000 to travel to other countries and study other languages. She opened the doors at DPS to enable faculty and students to expand their minds and civic virtue. Our city owes Melanie much thanks for her civic virtue. She is a guardian angel to the Denver Public School system. She made it possible for others to be able to invest in the world on a personal level, recognize different perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action, which are the goals of DCIS schools’ travel and language programs.
Did you know that DCIS Denver Public School students can study many languages, including Italian, Mandarin, and Lakota? That students can learn these wonderful languages and as a result the languages’ culture is another beacon of hope in our DPS. The next time you are talking to a Denver School Board member, an organization full of controversy and uncertainty, tell them they are getting it right at the DCIS schools in our public system. It is wonderful to see students expanding their minds with practical travel and language study.
On Saturday, April 30, 2022 at History Colorado (1200 Broadway), you can attend the DCIS Foundation Spring Gala fundraiser, starting at 5:30 p.m. The theme this year is Italy, so you can feel right at home: did you know North Denver used to be called “Little Italy?” Many citizens of Italian ancestry in Colorado had ancestors who came from Potenza in Italy. That’s why we have a Potenza Lodge on West 38th Avenue, across from Leprino’s cheese factory and not too far from Gaetano’s Restaurant. Before dinner begins, you can meet some of the students and hear their stories of recently staying with individual families in various countries, especially Italy, where kids and teachers have been going for over 10 years. Bring your proof of vaccination card with you so we have a safe dinner.
Co-chairs for the dinner gala this year are the Honorable Giovanna Carrier-Cortreras, Italian Consul for Colorado, Dr. Michael Frank, formerly of Potenza Sister Cities for Denver, and an Italian exchange student. The dinner will be served home-cooked, North Denver, sit-down family style, and includes baked ziti, Caesar salad, and veggie lasagne. “Mangia bene,” as we say here in North Denver.
It will be a fun evening, and be sure to dress to impress. There will be a variety of unique silent auction items including gift cards for some of Denver’s finest restaurants. More fun.
We hope you will attend, tell your friends, and spread the word so the DCIS Foundation can help Denver Public School students follow the wishes of Rumi, who said, “Travel brings power and love back into your life.” Help bring self-worth and self-esteem back into the lives of DPS students, and have a little fun while you are at it.
If you can’t come but want to give, send donations to Dr. Theresa Conley Myer, Director, DCIS Foundation, PO Box 9044, Denver, CO 80209. Federal Tax ID: 84-1229412. You can email Theresa at email@example.com should you have any questions about details of the gala, or find more information at dcisfoundation.org/Gala2022. Do your small part to make the ancient Athenian Oath a reality in this weary war-torn world: “Let us try to leave the world better off than we found it.”
The Honorable Dennis Gallagher is a former city auditor, city councilman, state senator and state representative. He shares thoughts and stories from North Denver’s past and future in his monthly column in The Denver North Star.