Golden High School senior Linus Woodard told the story of Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen — a Navy SEAL who lost his legs serving in Afghanistan in September 2009, who later went on to become a six-time …
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Golden High School senior Linus Woodard told the story of Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen — a Navy SEAL who lost his legs serving in Afghanistan in September 2009, who later went on to become a six-time Paralympic medalist — as one of his charity’s greatest accomplishments.
“There’s lots of success stories coming out of the NSCD,” Woodard said. The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) has two facilities in Colorado — one in Denver and one in Winter Park — and offers adaptive sports and recreational programs for people with disabilities of any age and any ability.
Zak Bayer, also a senior at Golden High School, told of the story of 8-year-old Gracie Misik of Golden, who recently earned her own horse — a 10-year-old grade paint mare that she named Rain — through successful completion of the Horse Protection League’s Youth Equine Program.
The two teens, and eight more of their peers, told these success stories on Dec. 5 to a panel of four judges and an audience that nearly filled the Golden High School auditorium.
It was the inaugural The Golden One competition.
“I saw this as a great way to exercise my last year here at Golden High School,” said Ben Berube, the first-place winner of the competition.
He added that many of the competitors have known each other through all four years of high school, if not longer. And many already had plans to go out-of-state for college.
In addition, the experiences gained from this competition are new to every contestant, added second-place winner Zak Chorny.
“We’re all in the same boat,” Chorny said. “Hopefully, we’re setting the stage for next year’s seniors.”
But not only is it a fun event that commemorates a student’s senior year, it’s an outlet for which to give back to the community. Each of the contestants partnered with a local charity and competed on its behalf.
“It’s exciting to get the chance to talk about my charity,” Berube said, adding his hope is that it sparked some interest for people in the audience to get involved.
“Everybody’s here — and everybody chose to be here — for the betterment of the community,” he said.
Following the competition on Dec. 5, the rough estimate of proceeds was about $2,000, which came from ticket sales for the show and a fundraiser that took place at Chick-Fil-A earlier that evening.
Because he was the first-place winner, 65 percent of the total proceeds will go to Berube’s charity, which is Youth on Record. It is a Denver-based organization that uses “the arts to inspire at-risk young people to re-engage in their education and graduate, while providing advanced job skills and opportunities in the creative industries,” states its website.
Chorny, the second-place winner, competing on behalf of Foothills Animal Shelter, receives 35 percent of the evening’s proceeds for his charity.
The competition consisted of an opening act — a group dance performed by all contestants — and two rounds of competition. Round 1 was a formal Q&A during which contestants had to demonstrate knowledge and passion for their charity.
Round 2 was a talent/hobby showcase, which was quite an eclectic mix of performances. For example, Patrick Dolan, competing for Colorado’s 14’ers Initiative, did stand-up comedy; Connor Howe, competing for the Golden Schools Foundation, danced a ballet in a dinosaur costume; and Stefan Leo, competing for the Colorado Teen Project, did a card-throwing trick of sorts.
The Golden One was modeled after a former annual competition called Mr. Golden-Ridge, which was a male beauty pageant between Wheat Ridge and Golden high schools. The revamped The Golden One differs in that it is not a pageant, per se, but more of a competition with a focus on the nonprofit beneficiaries. And, although there weren’t any girls interested in competing this year, it will be open to both male and female seniors in following years.
The Golden One is the brainchild of a new club at the high school called Golden Wish Club. The club got started from the efforts of a group of students who put on Wish Week from April 16-20 during last year’s spring semester. For Wish Week, Golden High Schoolers partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and raised funds — surpassed the goal, in fact — to send a 4-year-old Evans resident with brain cancer and his family to Disney World.
Some of those students approached Rachel Kastelein, a social studies teacher at Golden High School, at the beginning of this school year to inquire about forming an official Wish Week club.
“They loved the idea of giving back and they wanted to do more,” Kastelein said.
But she knew it would be difficult to form a club for one yearly activity, thus, The Golden One came about. Now, the club has two annual events — The Golden One in the fall semester and Wish Week in the spring semester — in addition to its yearlong outreach activities in which the high schoolers work with middle schoolers at Bell and Manning for tutoring, student council activities and other leadership mentoring.
“They’re the ones running all the wheels,” Kastelein said of the Golden Wish Club’s 50 members, selected through an application process. “They’ve taken this and really ran with it.”
Many of the students saw a need for a charity-based club at Golden High School, said Ella Ganter, a junior who is co-president of Golden Wish Club along with Lulu Brotherton.
“This club helps creates a bond between the community and the high school, which is necessary for us to show our appreciation for a town that gives so much to us,” Ganter said. “With The Golden One, we can reach students who may not necessarily join a club at the school, but may have a passion for a specific charity.”
Brotherton, a senior, agrees.
“What you put in is what you get out,” she said. “In order to grow in future years, we have to build a foundation now that ensures everyone feels like they belong.”
Sometimes it’s easy for teens to get caught up in their own world, Kastelein said.
“The skills they get from Wish Club are skills they can take with them to college and beyond,” she said. “They’ve learned that there are many ways they can impact people outside of their circle. This has forced them to step outside of that circle and learn how they can give back to an entire community.”
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