Renaissance Secondary Students Design for Change

Local Change Shares Global Goals for Renaissance Secondary Students
Posted on 01/06/2020
Local Change Shares Global Goals for Renaissance Secondary Students

CASTLE ROCK – Students from Renaissance Secondary took the phrase, “Act local, think global” to a new level in November when they traveled to Rome, Italy, for the Design for Change Global Summit. Over 70 countries were represented by more than 4,000 students. Renaissance Secondary was one of four groups chosen from the United States from over 350 entries to serve as ambassadors for the program.

Renaissance Secondary Design for Change in Rome, ItalyDesign for Change in Spring 2019

The Design for Change organization has a single mission: to cultivate an “I CAN” mindset that equips every child to be aware of the world around them, enabled with the skills to take action, and be empowered to design a more desirable and sustainable future. While this mindset can be encouraged with different strategies, the Renaissance Secondary students chose to pursue projects inspired by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of 2030.

During the Spring 2019 semester, groups of students Renaissance Secondary students designed projects around five different SDG goals: No Hunger, No Poverty, Life Below Water, Partnership for Goals, and Good Health and Well Being.

“The student groups were unique because they were organized around their passions,” says Renaissance Secondary teacher Donna Guerin, an SDG Global Goals Ambassador who led the trip. “They weren’t necessarily friends to begin with, but they shared a common bond.”

 By tackling these global goals using the resources of Design for Change and partnering with groups such as Take Action Global, Inspire Citizens, and TeachRock, students exercised their personal voice and created their own stories of change.

“Student voice is the most important thing in my style of teaching, and allowing them to be in charge of their own learning.” says Guerin.

Renaissance Secondary Design for Change in Rome, ItalyCreating Impactful Change Through Unique Projects

One group, SDG Breakdown, partnered locally with Hyperthreat Sound Studio to write and record a song called “Side by Side” which is currently trending on six platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, and Google Play.

Renaissance Secondary Freshman Ryan Dolan was part of another group that had a shared interest in emergency services. His group used their interest and connections with fire departments in a novel approach to distribute care kits for the homeless.

“We wanted to go a different route than giving the care kits to a shelter,” explains Dolan. “So we asked different fire department agencies to put the care kits on their rigs so that when they come across someone on the street or on a call, they can distribute them.”

To create the care kits, Dolan’s group raised over $2,000 with an online fundraiser. The care kits are currently stocked on South Metro Fire Rescue’s fire trucks and in the Public Information Officer’s vehicle.

“It was a great opportunity to not only give back to the community, but to also work with people that see those people on the streets everyday,” says Dolan.

Other student groups pursued SDG goals by creating a website to raise local awareness about the global impact of plastic as well as creating a safe platform for teens to talk with one another on mental health issues.

Traveling to Rome for the Global Summit in Fall 2019


Eight students made the trip to Italy as representatives of the United States. The three days of the Design for Change Global Summit allowed the group to connect with other young change-makers and share their projects with other countries. Two days were spent with an eighth-grade class at an Italian secondary school and the third day culminated in a visit from Pope Francis.

“It was great to bond with other kids our age from other countries,” says Isaac Urrutia, one of the student ambassadors, who avidly practiced speaking Italian and Spanish on the trip. “It just feels more authentic to be speaking with someone who is born and raised in Italy or Spain.”

For many of the students, taking in a new culture left the largest impact. Students were able to see Michelangelo’s statue of David, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel, and even experience small cultural differences like the narrow elevators and paying two dollars for a drink refill.

“Breathtaking,” says Max Yang, a freshman at Renaissance Secondary, when asked to describe the trip. “Just breathtaking. The views. The arts. The sculptures. The paintings. Everything is handcrafted. It was amazing.”

“As a parent who wasn’t on the trip, I noticed a different sense of compassion from my son,” says Isaac’s mother, Sherry Urrutia. “It was like a different person came back. He’s always been a compassionate person, but I noticed something touched his heart there. He’s more open to different experiences and people.”
Renaissance Secondary Design for Change in Rome, Italy
“I feel like I [learned more about how] the world’s way different outside of the U.S.,” commented Zach Reckseen, a freshman at Renaissance Secondary. “Like how they dress, how they speak, how they act with each other.”

With the Design for Change projects and Global Summit behind them, some of the travelers have moved on to new learning opportunities at other schools. A few students enrolled in another class at Renaissance Secondary next quarter centered around the SDG Goals of 2030. Perhaps they will be invited to attend the Design for Change 2020 Global Conference in Brazil with their new projects.

Regardless of the students’ next steps, their shared experience as a group during a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will continue to connect them to their new global friends and each other.
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