The Denver Public Schools Foundation is determined to help every child succeed.
When they look at DPS alum Lupe Tarango, they know their programs and partnerships in the Denver community are indeed working to help every child find and reach their potential.
Her mother never went to high school. Lupe looks at the lack of opportunity that her mom faced as a child and is determined to turn things around for herself and make her mother proud.
Her mother is very proud. Everyone who meets Lupe is affected by her drive, her intelligence and her grace and kindness.
“My mom is a strong Mexican woman and because of her, I am a strong American woman,” Lupe said.
“Lupe has a strong sense of herself and comfortable in her voice,” Duke Professor Adam Hollowell said. “It’s unique among first year students to have that level of pause, composure and thoughtfulness.”
Lupe went to Columbian Elementary in Denver. She finished her middle school years at Skinner MS and then, graduated from North High School in 2017.
“My leadership grew with me as I went on with high school,” Lupe said. “My sophomore year, I was the Student Council President so I planned homecoming events and pep rallies. During Lupe’s junior year, she joined the Student Board of Education in which she teamed up with Denver Water to help raise awareness to water usage.
Through her role at the Student Board of Education, Lupe worked to establish the Culturally Competent Curriculum program which created classes that were more relevant and engaging to the student body at North HS.
“North is about 80% Hispanic, so we wanted classes that kind of reflected the student population,” Lupe said. “So we worked with the administration and at the end of the year, we added Hispanic American Literature and classes of that sort.”
Also during her time in high school, Lupe worked with the homeless at the Denver Rescue Mission and with Colorado legislators to have a bill passed that would allow the voting age to be lowered to 16 (the bill failed). But it was her time as an intern in the dialysis unit at Denver Health Medical Center where her interest was peaked into a future career in medicine or health policy.
“These people were sick and terminally ill and they still got up every morning and they went to work at bakeries, coffee shops, whatever so they could take care of their family,” Lupe said. “They had kids my age who they wanted a better future for. I just loved listening to their stories, especially in Spanish. I was able to communicate with them.”
Lupe has yet to declare a major at Duke. After working with children as a teacher aide in Durham Public Schools, Lupe is considering pediatrics.
Lupe is currently working in an Alzheimer’s research lab in the Duke University School of Medicine.
“I am learning how to culture HeLa cells, cancerous cells, and essentially keep them alive and keep them growing,” Lupe said. “There is so much to learn from these cells. It’s awesome that I can apply what I learned in chemistry class at North and actually use it and see how it’s effective.”
“Lupe is extremely responsible,” Contanza Cortez, PhD said. “It is amazing to see the work ethic in somebody as young as she is. She’s got great potential and I’m hoping to see great things from her.”
Lupe is also intrigued by the field of health policy. So, at the end of Lupe’s freshman year, Lupe is traveling to Sri Lanka with Duke’s Global Health Institute.
“We are going to be doing a lot of work around global health, biology and science but also being injected in the community and leaning from the people in Sri Lanka and how they deal with their healthcare system and their policy system.”
I think there are a lot of student who think of themselves as occupying two or three different cultures and Lupe’s family involves a variety of cultural influences,” Professor Hollowell said. “Lupe is not comfortable with that as the end of her story. She’s going to Sri Lanka to study and to expand and grow and be shaped by different things. Her curiosity is admirable. When you’re around Lupe, you can feel that she’s curious and that wants to make you be curious as well.”
That curiosity of wanting to know more was really brought out of Lupe through the opportunities provided to her though the DPS Foundation. As the fundraising partner to DPS, DPS Foundation builds relationships within the community to provide resources that can help students achieve. Through DPS Foundation, Lupe has mentors who are in leadership at Western Union. Leaders at United Airlines who met Lupe and were impressed with her focus helped her with travel vouchers so she could visit the colleges she was interested in attending.
“It literally took a village to get to where I am today,” Lupe said. “Through DPS Foundation, I had mentors. I had my teachers, my family and friends to support me. I didn’t know what I was capable of, until somebody showed me what I was capable of. The DPS Foundation helped me by giving me a place to advocate for myself and to reach out to resources that I didn’t know existed.”