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A pretty good start

I normally do not respond to articles. However, I could not in good conscience allow the article titled "'F' for Life Skills," which appeared in the Dec. 15 Independent, to stand without a rebuttal.

The Life Skills Center of Colorado Springs is a School District 11 charter school that has been in operation since September 2004. The underlying rationale for the creation of this school was to give young people who had dropped out of high school another opportunity to achieve success by getting them back into school and earning their high school diplomas.

Let me share with you some of the things that we have accomplished in the past 15 months. A building that had been unoccupied for quite some time was renovated and prepared to accept students by our operations company, White Hat Management. While we started with approximately 200 students, we now serve approximately 340 students, and we are continuing to grow. Attendance goals were set at 70 percent, and in the past six months we have seen attendance grow from 54 percent to a high of 83 percent. The credits that students earn have jumped from 143.5 credits between September and December 2004 to 338.5 credits earned between September and December 2005.

CSAP prep classes are being designed to be implemented in January 2006 to prepare our students for testing in March 2006. And in accordance with School District 11 directives, we created a School Improvement Plan in August 2005. In keeping with an evolving and dynamic school environment, we at Life Skills Center continue to modify our positions to establish much higher standards and expectations of both students and our staff.

Finally, our ultimate goal is in our graduation rates. In December 2004, we graduated three students; in June 2005, we graduated 12 students; and on Dec. 21, 2005, we graduated another 20 students. Most of these young adults plan to continue their education by going to college. All 35 of them now have a chance to do exactly that.

Can we get better? Absolutely. But we are already off to a pretty good start.

-- Luis Velez

Board chair,

Life Skills Center

Colorado Springs

Reject bigotry

As longtime residents, involved citizens and people who care a great deal about Colorado Springs, we would like to express our support for Wells Fargo Bank and Starbucks Corporation after Focus on the Family's recent letter sent to their constituents encouraging people to boycott these companies.

We appreciate the support Wells Fargo and Starbucks have shown our local community. It would not be possible to list all the contributions they and their employees have made to us. We are fortunate to have these organizations that support their local community and help to make it a better place to live.

At no time is bigotry appropriate for those who care about all of God's creation. At this time of year, after 12 months in which our country and our world have seen great suffering and a great outpouring of concern and support for those less fortunate, it is even more disappointing that Focus on the Family has chosen to target organizations that consistently contribute to our community.

What company will they target next because the company takes a broader view of social responsibility than Focus does? This is not what Colorado Springs stands for. It is time that those of us who care about our community come forward and take a stand in support of Wells Fargo Bank and Starbucks Corporation.

Please contact these companies and thank them for their support of inclusivity, freedom, opportunity and fairness for all.

-- Carla Hartsell, Colorado Springs

Marcy Morrison, Manitou Springs

Marvin Strait, Colorado Springs

The rest of the Springs

I liked last week's "You're sooo Colorado Springs " story, but I thought of a few additions that I would like to share, which define this city for some of the rest of us.

Here they are:

You're sooo Colorado Springs if

You know people who remember, fondly, when Academy was a dirt track.

You remember, fondly, when there was nothing but antelope and scrub and wildflowers northeast of Powers and Constitution.

You know Siberian elms are an invasive species -- but love them for their shade.

You've seen the following within a block of your (very urban) residence: deer, skunks, hawks, owls, bears and buffalo.

Young people look at you funny when you talk about what a great trail Stanley Canyon was.

Young people look at you funny when you mention that Red Rock Canyon almost became a development.

You're disappointed when KRCC fundraisers last longer than 2 1/2 days.

Your colleagues wonder if you worship Satan when you mention friendship with a Wiccan.

People wonder just how old you are when you mention that the Incline was not always a running track.

You still don't understand why the jail extension blocking the view from the Pioneers Museum was built when the voters decided against it.

You consider a trip to Home Depot a potential social occasion -- and it often is.

You consider a windstorm an opportunity to get free firewood.

You consider the French onion soup at La Baguette the absolutely perfect lunch.

You consider a breakfast stop at The Donut Mill in Woodland Park an essential part of any ski/snowboard trip.

You remember when Sandra Mann was a newscaster.

There are many, many more, of course. Thank you for making me realize just how much of a local I've become!

-- Eva Syrovy

Colorado Springs

Save Soaring Eagles

I am writing you once more to voice my opposition to the Wal-Mart superstore planned to be built in the Soaring Eagles community.

I took the opportunity last weekend to visit all of the houses on my block and to talk with my neighbors about the issue. With the exception of one person, every single neighbor that I talked with is firmly against the idea of having a big-box store in our neighborhood.

The general consensus is that we were all lied to, or at least misled, by the real estate agents that we all dealt with. Most of us were told that there would "probably" be a small grocery store and other small businesses in a strip center. Some of us were told that it was going to be a park.

I find it interesting that none of the plans that I have seen include the city park and elementary school, both within walking distance of the proposed location. It seems to be the opinion of the planners that there will not be any cut-through traffic into the neighborhood. This is simply ludicrous. The first time someone trying to get to the store has to stop at Hancock and Harrier Ridge, they are going to make an immediate right, passing right by the school, then a left, passing right by the park, on their way to great discount prices.

Simply put, we do not want the burden of a 24-7 big-box store in our neighborhood. There are better places for a store like this, just across the street on the east side of Powers Boulevard.

The residents of Soaring Eagles and the surrounding communities should have a voice regarding what happens in their own neighborhood, and that voice should not be dismissed or ignored.

-- Keith Varney

Colorado Springs

Cramping up

The fractionalization of American society has been going on for quite some time now, but never before has it reached the ludicrous level that political correctness has. The laughable thing about it is that no two people can agree on what constitutes it precisely, because it does not exist. It's a contrivance. But some people don't care about that because they are too preoccupied looking for things to get offended about.

The latest example of this was the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays melee. Absurdity, most times, brings me to unbridled, raucous, side-splitting laughter, but this was beyond all else. It took me a week to get rid of the cramps.

Do any of you really think that in changing words, you have changed belief? If so, let me ask you this: Are you looking for something that will make you more interesting to yourself, or, perhaps, make you feel you're part of something that matters? Or is it that you are in desperate need of getting a life? It is you who are committing the offense, you who are creating the schism.

Has it occurred to you that there are many real problems your zeal would be better applied to, like hunger, disease, homelessness, education oops, that was a mistake. I forgot. You're probably offended by intelligent design or evolution, also, never thinking that, just maybe, there is intelligent design in evolution and evolution in intelligent design.

In any case, we have just started a new year. Don't you think it's time to give it a rest and start focusing on something that really matters? Like, is it a tax or is it a fee? Assessing the IQ of school board members that feel they need a consultant to teach them how to get along together? (Perhaps a retired preschool teacher would be better.) And why people don't understand that they can't trust politicians because they keep electing lawyers?

-- Allen Campbell

Colorado Springs

Living with sewage

We should squabble about this issue

Although Pueblo and Colorado Springs are in close proximity, they are not linked socially, economically or politically. This being said, what does it matter if people from Pueblo work in Colorado Springs, or vise versa? That seems to be the message of some who seem to be trying to justify Colorado Springs Utilities' continued polluting of Fountain Creek, and the negative environmental impact it has on Pueblo's East Side. These people believe that because we share a workforce, we should simply accept the crap CSU sends our way. I live on the East Side, and these people certainly do not represent my neighbors or me.

As residents of Pueblo's East Side, we know that if the contamination-slash-pollution that has been happening since at least 1998 continues, it will certainly cause more damage to our homes, health and future. Therefore, this issue is appropriate to squabble about. We live and breathe that sewage every day, and so do our families.

East Side people are strong-willed and have big, wonderful hearts, and are the people who live where the Fountain flows, where our life flows. We are the salt of the Earth. Stop labeling us and start helping. Take an active role in helping us fight this environmental tragedy that doesn't seem to be going away in the near future. This problem is dangerous to all those in Pueblo. Even if you do not live by the Fountain Creek, it affects you.

How can Colorado Springs Utilities continue to say this huge tragedy, the millions of gallons of sewage spilled, is the direct cause of vandals, or even accidents? My gosh, if this is true get your act together -- you run a multimillion dollar company.

One last thing to think about: Would you allow crap to seep into your back yard? I don't think so. Fountain Creek is my back yard, literally.

-- Katherine Lucero Trujillo

Pueblo

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