SWOS helps students with law

Courtesy  Southwest Open School students visited the Ludlow Massacre Site south of Walsenburg, Colo. on their way to Denver for trip focused on labor law.  Pictured from left to right in top row are Mike Moore, Cassie Rivas, Ana Rosales, Brianna Provtsgaard, Tristan Floyd, Nick Martinez, teacher Sam Carter, and Kyle Alexander. In the bottom row are Lydia Eppard, staff mentor Ellen Shinkle, student mentorRacquel Lindsey, Michael Finlay, Jose Morales, Ryan Gentry, Taylor Tulio and Danielle Hoch. Enlargephoto

Courtesy Southwest Open School students visited the Ludlow Massacre Site south of Walsenburg, Colo. on their way to Denver for trip focused on labor law. Pictured from left to right in top row are Mike Moore, Cassie Rivas, Ana Rosales, Brianna Provtsgaard, Tristan Floyd, Nick Martinez, teacher Sam Carter, and Kyle Alexander. In the bottom row are Lydia Eppard, staff mentor Ellen Shinkle, student mentorRacquel Lindsey, Michael Finlay, Jose Morales, Ryan Gentry, Taylor Tulio and Danielle Hoch.

A student from Southwest Open School applied her knowledge of labor law to get her hours adjusted after finding out students should not be made to work after 10 p.m. on school nights.

She is one of 15 students in The Working Class, one of the intensive courses at SWOS, that is focused on labor laws, their history and teaching students how to use the law to protect themselves. The class traveled to Denver last week to visit the Department of Labor and Employment, the National Labor Relations Board and the state Capitol. The students came back and realized some of their friends had been offered less than minimum wage, and in one case a student realized her hours were unfair.

“My boss was having me work, like, crazy hours,” said the student who approached her boss for a schedule change because she was working until 1 a.m. on school nights.

The student, who did not want to be identified, was able work through conflict and apply her knowledge as her teacher, Sam Carter, intended.

“I want them to know how to navigate through the labor system, so they can always have a job that can support them,” Carter said.

In addition to learning about labor law, the students visited a soup kitchen for seniors and talked with homeless people on the 16th Street Mall.

“I don’t want any of these kids to become homeless, I want them to know what it looks like, I want them to know how to avoid it,” he said.

At the soup kitchen and on the street, students spoke to people who broke through their stereotypes of homeless people.

“The people we met at the soup kitchen worked all their lives until they lost their jobs,” said Racquel Lindsey.

Many of the students recalled how much the seniors appreciated talking with them, including Lindsay who recalled this comment from one of them: “He said, ‘Thank you for making me feel not so forgotten.’”

On the 16th Street Mall, Danielle Hoch met a homeless veteran named James who told them he believed they would succeed and make change.

mshinn@cortezjournal.com