College of Education alumnus improves education for Denver students

Alumnus Nickolas Dawkins transformed his passion into purpose as principal of Denver’s Hamilton Middle School. Once one of the lowest-ranking middle schools in Denver, Hamilton climbed the list to become one of the highest ranking during the three years Dawkins served as principal.

When Dawkins arrived at Hamilton in 2013, he quickly learned that many of his students were facing challenges outside of school that sometimes made learning seem like a backseat priority.

Watch Fox 31’s story on Dawkins at kdvr.com

“Half the kids were doing OK,” Dawkins says. “Most everybody else wasn’t.”

Dawkins had a similar story, having been on his own from the age of 17. But after receiving his principal’s license and a his master’s degree in education administration and policy studies from DU’s Morgridge College of Education, Dawkins has become living proof that education helps kids persevere.

“We don’t ever take the excuse that a kid had a hard life, so he or she isn’t going to do well,” Dawkins says.

This year Dawkins became principal of Denver’s Manual High School, located in the neighborhood where he grew up. Manual is one of the lowest-ranked high schools in the state, but Dawkins says that’s why he needed to take his passion there.

“I know it’s the lowest-ranking school in our city, and it’s been in turnaround struggle for a long time,” Dawkins says. “But I have to follow my heart. I have to go back to my community.”

For Dawkins, the most important thing is showing his students that they have someone rooting for them.

“I feel empowered to go tell the kids that we love them and haven’t given up on them.”

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