Mr. John Youngquist was the principal at my elementary school, Newlon. 25 years later, I am proud to say that I do not know where I would be today if it were not for Mr. John Youngquist, teachers, staff, and parents at Newlon Elementary.
The best thing about going to Newlon was how close the community was and how we grew up with some amazing memories along with any support we needed. Some of our parents would volunteer and work at Newlon to help with many activities and sports to keep us elementary school kids busy and out of trouble. My mom Antoinette Mejia was a Paraprofessional at Newlon Elementary School, and I was in second grade when my family found out she had Breast Cancer.
My mom was told that she was not able to beat the cancer and we only had a certain amount of time with her. With that my mom went through chemotherapy, lost her hair, and would be sick on and off, but my mom never stopped and kept fighting to work, be a wife, and mother. I can honestly say that it was the hardest time to be a kid going through that, but I was still blessed that I got to see my mom at school and spend small extra moments with her some school days.
Throughout that time, I was trying to be the positive person my parents raised me to be and not listen to the other kids when they would tease my mom for not having hair or not being able to show up for work sometimes. Well, one day I did let my anger get the best of me and I chose violence with the boy who kept teasing my mom. I remember I was so upset and hurt and the weight of everything just fell on my 7-year-old shoulders. I had never in my little life been in trouble for anything at school, but here I was being sent to Mr. Youngquist office. I remember crying and being so embarrassed. Not once did I get scolded and instead, I was comforted, and they were able to get me the professional help I needed within the school.
I was told by Mr. Youngquist that what I did was not ok and that “no matter what we face in life we must keep pushing forward with a positive and caring attitude without violence. Some days will be harder than others, but do not let those bad days win.” I took those words to heart and very seriously because in that moment when the principal and staff could have looked down on me and suspended me, they realized something was wrong in a student and that student needed help. There were other students that went through their own battles and struggles personally, but there was always help and resources because the whole school genuinely cared about us kids, our feelings, and our futures.
My mother’s breast cancer battle came to an end, and she passed away on December 3, 1998, I was only 8. Mr. Youngquist requested to have a memorial painting that is painted outside of Newlon school library dedicated to my mom and to all the people who have helped and continue to help children. 25 years later as I walk my now first grade daughter through the halls of Newlon Elementary School, I am proud to say that it is a beautiful reminder the way Mr. John Youngquist and his school cared about us students. Because of that one moment of understanding and compassion they all changed my whole life. I am now happy to say that 25 years later I am a proud mother, wife, and I work in the medical field. I work as a Population Health Specialist, and I oversee 10-12 medical practices and help with taking care of their Medicare population. I give all my thanks to Mr. Youngquist, teachers, and staff for never giving up on us and helping make me who I am today.
With that being said, I am proud to be a Denver resident/parent that will be voting for John Youngquist to help make a difference to other Denver Public Schools.