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“Jalapeno, ginger, green onion, miso…” Jesse Albertini rattled off some of the ingredients in the green mixture she was delicately folding into circles of light brown dough on the stainless steel table of her commissary kitchen.

This is where she can be found making all kinds of pasta – pea tortellini on this particular Thursday – twice a week so long as her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter’s daycare isn’t closed due to Covid.

Jesse Albertini hand-folds pea tortellini in her commissary kitchen on a Thursday morning

The road to this rented kitchen space in a Baker industrial complex has been a lifelong process of learning for Albertini. Originally from New York, she decided at a young age that she would make it her mission to learn as much as she could, even when it meant taking jobs that “sucked,” in order to confidently open her own fresh flour and pasta-focused business one day.

A few years ago, that day arrived, and these production days are a part of Albertini’s weekly routine in running Sfoglina – her small, from-scratch pasta business.

“It’s the word for women who hand roll the dough in Bologna,” she said.

These days, Albertini isn’t doing as much rolling. Instead, much of her pasta dough, which is made from whole grain flour, has a consistency similar to that of wet sand.

“Commodity wheat has 47 chromosomes, and these guys have 27,” she said, referring to the Boulder-sourced Turkey Red wheat dough in her hands. “As we’ve processed flour, it’s changed the genetic makeup of it all.”

“When you extrude it through a brass die, it causes like hundreds of micro-tears. That helps it hold onto the sauce better,” Albertini said. The pasta is dried, and then it’s ready to go.

Albertini rolls her tortellini dough out using a crank-operated machine before folding it onto itself and repeating the process

When she finally reached a comfortable financial threshold over three years ago, Albertini left a salaried position to start writing a business plan for the sit-down, brick-and-mortar shop she’d been dreaming of.

“As we get close to being ready to get financing, that’s when my husband and I found out we were having a baby,” she said. “We were always just like, let’s see which one happens first, but once we were expecting we realized I can’t take out like a $250,000 loan with a baby coming because I don’t know what being a parent is.”

Then, when Albertini’s daughter, Adeline, was three months old, Covid hit, pushing Sfoglina even farther down the road.

“It kind of was a blessing because we probably would have went out of business,” she said.

A few months later, in the early summer of 2020, the nationwide protests ignited by the murder of George Floyd inspired Albertini to use her pasta prowess for good, selling homemade tortellini and donating the proceeds to Conscious Kid – an organization that “supports families and educators in taking action to disrupt racism, inequity, and bias.”

A tattoo on Albertini’s right forearm, featuring wheat and a pasta cutting tool

Albertini began to think that maybe she didn’t have to open a shop to realize her dream, or at least not right away. She went back to the drawing board, rewrote her plan, and started moving towards the business model she has today – a small commissary kitchen to supply orders placed online and at a whole lot of farmers markets.

“I might not be able to commit to a brick-and-mortar right this moment – and 100 hours a week – but I can start this business this way and still grow it,” she said. “I still feed the passion of what I like to do while actually getting great time with my daughter.”

Adeline is still a bit too young to understand where her mom goes on those sunny weekend mornings. Albertini’s husband tried to explain once, telling Adeline that her mom had to go “make the doughnuts.”

“And then I came home, and I didn’t have any doughnuts. She cried for like an hour,” Albertini said.

In addition to Christmastime, when Albertini’s pasta of the month subscription service becomes a popular gift, the summer is her busy season, and she just hired Gabby Wilkins to assist in the kitchen. Wilkins, who used to work at a Denver Italian restaurant where Albertini was a sous chef, has a background in baking, pastries, and all things dough.  

“At the moment, I’m where Jesse used to be – where I just want to get as much experience as possible in everything,” Wilkins said.

Like Albertini, Wilkins wants to have her own business one day – a bakery, perhaps.

While business is thriving, Albertini doesn’t want to stop here. Her goal is still to have a brick-and-mortar shop someday, complete with a catering business and chef’s counter. For now, you can find Albertini under her pop-up tent on summer weekend mornings, selling freshly-made, whole wheat pasta to the masses.

“Jalapeno, ginger, green onion, miso…” Jesse Albertini

Josephine Baker was an African American singer, dancer and civil rights activist who found fame and fortune in Europe in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s when American audiences weren’t as supportive of Black performers. Her life story will be featured in an original cabaret-style show at the Denver Fringe Festival in the RiNo/Five Points neighborhood June 23-26. Tymisha Harris, the Florida-based actress who helped create the one-woman show called “Josephine,” says Baker was fearless and determined in everything she did. “She was an amazing pioneer and people need to know her story,” says Harris.

“Josephine” is just one of 40 shows on stage at 12 different venues during the 4-day performing arts festival. Ann Sabbah, creator and executive director of the Denver Fringe Festival, says there will be plays, musicals, circus acts, aerial artists, comedy, magic and improv. “There’s really something for everyone. It’s a great celebration of the performing arts.”

Tymisha Harris performs in “Josephine” at the Denver Fringe Festival June 23-26.
Photo by Roberto Gonzalez.

This is the third year for the Denver Fringe, which is modeled after the original fringe festival started in Edinburgh, Scotland 75 years ago. Since then, more than 300 fringe festivals have been launched in cities worldwide. By definition, fringe festivals feature independent and emerging artists who are performing original work. “Fringe festivals have become a critical platform for independent artists and their influence on the larger arts ecosystem. The artists are all trying new things, pushing the envelope and making the performing arts more accessible. The festivals are like an incubator and often the shows go on to have a life of their own,” says Sabbah.

In fact, “Josephine” was first created for the 2016 San Diego Fringe Festival and has since toured internationally and off-Broadway, winning numerous awards along the way. “Fringe offers artists such amazing freedom. We can do work that is 100% our own. It’s uncensored and we don’t have to make any sacrifices for our art,” says Harris.

Lakewood actress and writer Jenny Stafford agrees. Last year for the Denver Fringe she created and performed “Color Inside the Lines” — a comedy musical about one woman’s history of failed romantic relationships. “One of the great things about performing at Fringe is that the audience is there because they want to see your work. They’re not there to see fancy sets or a hydraulic stage. They really get excited about the nitty-gritty of the work,” say Stafford. 

Stafford, who was awarded Best Solo Performance at Denver Fringe 2021, is taking “Color Inside the Lines” to Edinburgh later this summer. She’s also coming back to the Denver Fringe with a brand new 2-part show called “Til Death Do Us Part” — about a married couple struggling to make sense of their relationship, life choices, and dreams. She says she’s now hooked on fringe festivals. “As an artist, it can be a challenge to get your work produced. Fringe makes it so easy to produce it yourself, since they take care of things like securing a space, doing the ticketing — all those things that can seem like a barrier.”

Actress and writer Jenny Stafford performed “Color Inside the Lines” at the 2021 Denver Fringe Festival. 
Photo by Matt Corbin.

For software-engineer-turned-comedian Albert Han, fringe festivals offer inclusivity for performers who struggle to get gigs at other venues. He is producing a show for the Denver Fringe called “50 Shades of Brown” – and features seven comedians who are either African American, Asian or Latino. “Comedy is such a white male dominated art form. I wanted to provide a platform so people of color could demonstrate their skills,” says Han. He says that too often comedy venues care more about booking  comedians who can sell tickets rather than trying to give diverse young voices a chance. “I saw the same thing in the tech world. I helped modernize the way our company recruited to make sure we hired diverse candidates.” In fact, Han is donating proceeds from his fringe production to Project Include, a non-profit dedicated to diversifying the tech industry.  

Sabbah says the whole idea behind the Denver Fringe Festival is to make performing arts open and accessible to all. That’s one reason ticket prices are so affordable. “Denver Fringe tickets are just $15 per show and most performances are less than an hour so it’s a great way to explore several different shows in the same evening,” says Sabbah.

Aerialists from Frequent Flyers performed Cirque de Minuit at the 2021 Denver Fringe Festival.
Photo by Kalen Jesse Photography.

To attract new audiences, only two of the venues are traditional theatres, the rest include unconventional spaces such as an art gallery, a photo studio, several breweries and the ballroom of the Mercury Café. There will also be two free outdoor circus shows by Circus Foundry on Friday, June 24 (5pm at Banshee house at 28th and Larimer) and Saturday, June 25 (3:30pm at Backyard on Blake, 3040 Blake St).  

And to build future audiences, Denver Fringe offers a free KidsFringe mini-fest that includes performances and workshops for children. “People who become supporters of the arts are usually exposed to the arts at a young age, so I thought it was an important facet of our festival to provide free programming to give kids that exposure,” says Sabbah. 

For a schedule of performances and ticket information visit

Josephine Baker was an African American singer,

For Jonnie Ellis, fitness is a lifestyle. Even more than that, it has always helped him find purpose and healing. 

“It’s always been a really powerful thing in my life to keep myself grounded. I’ve also seen the impact and change that it can make on people,” he said. “My dream was to be able to create something that can give back and empower people and change their lives for the better.”

This spring Jonnie opened up Fitness Solutions, or Fit Sol at 44th and Zuni in Sunnyside.  The gym is inside of a century-old mechanic shop with a large sign reading “Phillips Automotive” on the outside.

The building looks the same as it always has, but with a modern interior filled with weights and equipment. Two of the four walls are taken up by open garage doors. The space is small, but the environment is filled with good vibes. With such an open area, members can feel connected to each other, and to the rest of the street.

The idea for the Fit Sol gym was not Jonnie’s alone. It was a dream that he shared with his brother, Lane. Lane was an NCAA National SpringBoard Diving Champion at Colgate University, where he was also on the Dean’s List. The brothers shared this passion for fitness and recognized the benefits it had toward physical health, and also mental health.

“He was a professional high diver, a coach, a mentor, and most importantly my best friend. He was the best guy you could ever meet,” Jonnie said of his brother. “Always the one to light up your day with charisma and charm, but inside he was often struggling.” 

Lane’s struggle was with mental illness and addiction, and it lasted several years. He found that the most solace and healing times were those when he was working out with his brother.  In July 2019, Lane passed away after a drug relapse. 

“He was sort of losing himself again,” Jonnie said, with tears threatening in his eyes. “In the years leading up to his death, I knew with complete certainty he was happiest when he was exercising, and doing that in a community.”

After Lane’s death, Jonnie felt the effects of mental illness himself. Like Lane, he struggled quietly, and the people around him had no idea. Jonnie found that working out did more than give him strong muscles; it helped heal his inner wounds.

On May 12, 2022, Jonnie saw to it that the Ellis brothers’ vision came to life. Lane may not be here to see it, but Jonnie has built an incredible community, all to honor him. He knows that people all have their struggles. 

“There’s always people suffering in silence all the time.  I’ve had this passion and this vision in my mind to create a place that creates community and creates a culture of empowerment and acceptance and kindness to all people, and understanding that we don’t know what people are going through,” Jonnie remarked.

Millions of people suffer from these illnesses every day. Mental illness can be isolating and lonely, which is why Fit Sol focuses on creating community and accountability for everyone, including those who may be struggling internally.

“You have people who are expecting you to show up. If you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, you can know that I got out of bed for you. We come here together and we do this as a team,” he said.

The most important part of the Fit Sol brand is the community that it creates. Connections with others are so important, and as Jonnie has forged these relationships, he knows that he is exactly where he is supposed to be.

“I saw that I have the ability to connect with people and to understand all different types of people. More often than not I found that we all have similar experiences. We all feel pain, we all have loss. When you connect with people, that’s a powerful thing. It helps you to work through those things together,” Jonnie said.

Fit Sol is a project which allows Jonnie to carry on his brother’s memory. It lives on in the atmosphere of the gym, and in every interaction that Jonnie has with the community members. He sends the message of acceptance and understanding. Through this, Lane’s legacy will continue to touch the lives of everyone who walks into the gym at the old automotive shop on 44th and Zuni.

He doesn’t preach this message in class, and he doesn’t often share his story. But openness and kindness is not something that can be written on the wall; it’s just something that simply is.

“I want to get people really fit and have the best workout in town,” Jonnie said, “But more important to me is that people have a place where they come and they can let things out of themselves and can leave with a smile on their face.”

For Jonnie Ellis, fitness is a lifestyle.

What was your assignment and why did you choose to write about wasps?  Aren’t they kind of nasty?  

Our assignment was to study pollinators.  I chose to write about wasps because I like deadly animals.  I like deadly animals because they are cool.  My favorite deadly animal is a king cobra. Wasps are misunderstood because people are scared of them but they are an important part of the ecosystem.  

What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned about wasps that you think others should know?

Wasps can be any color of the rainbow, like red, orange, green, blue, metallic blue, purple, white and like everyone knows, yellow and black.  You shouldn’t use pesticides on wasps because they eat other pests.  

You talked about wasps being affected by habitat loss and climate change?  Why do those things concern you?

Because if that happens there will be no more wasps.  Wasps are important because they give us between one quarter and one half of our food because they pollinate plants.  I think it is important to protect wasps and nature.  People should stop throwing trash on the ground.  

What do you like about Centennial Elementary School?

I love the nice teachers, especially my second grade teacher Ms. Nancy.  We get to learn about cool things like pollinators, fossils and birds.  I have a lot of friends there.  I live close by and can walk to school.  

What would you like to be when you grow up and why? 

I would like to be an engineer so I can invent cool things. I would like to invent factories that do not cause air pollution.  I would like to invent a real life video game, like a video game that is not on TV.    

What was your assignment and why did

For Pride Month History Colorado Center has a new exhibit called Queer Capitol Hill that displays locations that remind us of Denver’s queer history from the 1950s through the 1970s.  Capitol Hill has been Denver’s epicenter for queer history. It contains bars, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers that have made Denver feel like home to the LBGTQ+ community.

The exhibit is located on the second-floor mezzanine and is visible as soon as you climb the stairs. The display includes poster-style boards with colorful illustrations and detailed explanations. The vision and design for the exhibit were executed by Capitol Hill’s own B. Erin Cole.

“I’m a historian and a cartoonist,” said Cole. “I have actually done a lot of research about how did Capitol Hill become a queer neighborhood.”

Cole lived in Denver’s Baker neighborhood in the nineties and Capitol Hill in the 2010s. After moving away from Denver, they moved back to Capitol Hill from Minnesota last October.

Cole, who was once the Assistant State Historian at the History Colorado Center, reached out to their friends at the center and asked if they needed any new art. To complement the new rainbows and revolutions exhibit, which opened on June 4 at the HCC, Cole created Queer Capitol Hill.

Cole’s exhibit showcases their talent for illustration. It features cartoon-style graphics of the buildings you can visit.

“I’ve been writing comics since I was in my 20s and I really only got serious about it 10 years ago,” they said. “I’ve been kind of active in the independent comics community for about 10 years.”

Their research into Denver’s queer history started when they worked on their dissertation. Since then, they said they hoped to create a self-published comic of buildings from Denver’s queer past that you can still visit today.

Cole feels that their illustrations allow people to understand that queer history can happen anywhere, and on Capitol Hill, many buildings remain from these decades in queer history.  

“Buildings that you pass every day, they probably have a history that you don’t know about,” Cole said. “A lot of times that’s going to be queer history, whether it’s a place that queer people lived, whether they had meetings here, had parties, organized there.”

You can pick up a brochure at the exhibit that includes a walking map of all the sites displayed in Queer Capitol Hill.  The walking tour is about three miles, and the average walking time is about 65 minutes. The tour starts at the History Colorado Center and takes people to six additional buildings in Denver.  The tour is not a loop so you have a half hour hike back to History Colorado Center. 

The first stop on the walking tour is 1200 Broadway, right outside the History Colorado Center. Cole explains that “Denver police hassled patrons of gay bars on this and nearby blocks of Broadway in the 1970s.”

The second stop is at 1450 Pennsylvania. Cole says, “Now a private residence, the Gay Coalition of Denver opened their first office here in 1974.”

The third stop is at 1122 E. 17th Avenue. Cole explains, “The Approaching Lavender coffeehouse hosted concerts and community events here in the early 1970s.”

The fourth stop is at 1400 Lafayette. This is where “The Metropolitan Community Church of Denver held services and ceremonies here in the 1970s.”

The fifth stop is at 2023 E. Colfax. Cole says that “The Woman-to-Woman Feminist Book center was a key community space for Denver lesbians and allies in the 1970s.”

The sixth stop is at 1353 Vine. Cole mentions, “Elver Barker lived in an apartment here. In 1957, he founded the Denver chapter of the Mattachine Society and held meetings here.”

The seventh and final stop on the tour is located at Cheesman Park. “Denver’s first pride event happened here in 1974, and the park has played a role in Pride ever since.”

Cole said that they created this exhibit now so that these landmarks are not forgotten.

“Denver is changing a lot,” Cole said. “We’re getting far enough away from that time period that I think it could be forgotten. We’re kind of in a weird place with LGBTQ rights in the United States. I mean, there’s been all these amazing victories, both in the courts and with social acceptance, but you know, there’s also the sense of that could go away.”

With the exhibit Cole hopes to give Capitol Hill residents a sense that change has happened in their own neighborhood.

“The atmosphere changed a little bit from when I started conceiving this to when it opened, and it’s just like, anything that you can do to kind of remind people that change happened because people found each other and organized to do things,” they said. “No matter what’s going on, there’s always going to be something to fight for.”

For Pride Month History Colorado Center has

This is an exciting moment for the Psychedelic Club of Denver, which was founded in 2016 with the intention to affect policy change and create a community of psychedelic enthusiasts. 

“We just think that a lot of healing happens when these substances are consumed in community with people,” says Vice president Elle Estee.

Today, the club has three main focuses – harm reduction via a volunteer-run service that provides free substance testing, education through bimonthly meetings, and benefit maximization, which Estee describes as “integration circles where people can come and share about their psychedelic experiences or other substance related experiences.”

“I think that the lines between recreational and therapeutic are blurred, and that even fun recreational experiences can be really healing,” she said.

Estee addressed a crowd of about 20 prospective and established members at an open mic on a Wednesday evening at the Mercury Cafe, with performances ranging from saxophone serenades to firsthand accounts of acid trips.  In order to maintain their non-profit status, only information is exchanged. No drugs are bought or sold.    

“If you ask to buy drugs from us, we’ll probably think you’re the Feds and get really sketched out,” Estee said to the group.

Curiosity drove Sam Peterman to attend his first club meeting. While Peterman thinks that experiences can vary greatly on a case-by-case basis, he believes that psychedelics can indeed be beneficial for mental health.

“It just changes the way you think,” he said.

A common thread in the experiences group members shared from the brightly lit stage in the Merc’s jungle room involved getting in touch with one’s deeper self, or even a higher power. This, and the sense of community in finding like-minded people who have had similar experiences using psychedelics, seems to be what has drawn in the club’s roughly 50 members.

A man named Peter has been attending Psychedelic Club meetings since 2018. He’s 52 now and tried psychedelics for the first time at the age of 48 after stumbling upon a few podcasts that piqued his interest. 

“I had always dismissed psychedelics as a party drug,” he said. “It just opened up this whole new world and I started researching everything I could and was just amazed at what it sounded like.”

Peter has found that using psychedelics – specifically “macro-dosing” magic mushrooms – has helped him to uncover and deal with suppressed emotions and create what he calls “body memories,” which have given him a reference point for dealing with mental health struggles.

“It’s not like standard medications where you take it and it alleviates your symptoms,” Peter said. “It’s bringing it up to you in a way that you can then work with it.”

The Psychedelic Club of Denver isn’t saying that drugs can’t be harmful, but they believe that using certain hallucinogenic drugs can improve your mental health and they might not be tripping.

The idea of using psychedelics in therapeutic settings is becoming more mainstream. Recent studies have shown that the therapeutic use of psychedelics can help those suffering from PTSD, depression, panic attacks, and a myriad of other mental health issues. There’s no denying that public opinion over the use of psychedelics is shifting, however slowly.

Just as it was with marijuana, Denver is ahead of the game. The city became the first to decriminalize the usage of psilocybin – the chemical that makes magic mushrooms so magical – for those 21 and older in 2019. More recently, in January 2022, a bill was introduced in the Colorado General Assembly proposing the creation of a “policy review panel” “to study the use of plant-based medicines to support mental health.”

That bill failed in April, but its very existence is indicative of the fact that state and local governments across the country are slowly decriminalizing, and even legalizing, the usage of psychedelics.

“We encourage people to make friends in the community,” Estee said. “I’m super grateful for Psychedelic Club, not only because it’s allowed me access to things that I wouldn’t have had access to prior, but also community and the education piece that I need to consume safely.”

The club places a ton of emphasis on the importance of safe consumption.

“Driving cars is very dangerous, unless you know how to drive,” Estee said. “It’s all about education and being set up for success.”

Estee believes that much of the dialogue surrounding drug usage revolves around misconceptions created by the “war on drugs” – a term coined by President Nixon in 1971 that’s still widely used by politicians today, despite criticism that it’s really just a façade for racism – and big pharmaceutical corporations.

While Estee “would not like to see Big Pharma profit off of these sacred medicines that have been used in indigenous cultures” for centuries, she hopes that nationwide decriminalization – with proper regulatory measures – is on the horizon.

“It’s a pipe dream, I know.”

Psychedelic Club of Denver membership is donation based – a suggested $15 per month – but in an effort to be as inclusive and accessible as possible, you can join for as little as $1. Membership includes free access to paid events, exclusive swag, and the opportunity to partake in the club’s free substance checking program. What it doesn’t include is psychedelics.

This is an exciting moment for the

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018, I was a junior at a Florida high school close to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, Florida. Just in from school, my father called from work to tell my mother to turn on the news.

There had been a shooting. I remember immediately telling my close friends in a group chat about what was happening and to turn on the news. 

To this day I remember my friend’s response, “Damn, that is way too close.”

The next few hours trailed by very slowly because next to no new information was coming out either from the local or national news. My mom and I were glued to the scene unfolding on the TV, which was occurring in our own backyard. We did not think the shooting was that bad because, at this point, they were saying that only one teacher had been shot. 

Later in the day seemingly out of nowhere, they announced on the news that 17 people had been killed, mostly students.

My mom let out a loud gasp, held her hand over her mouth, and began to cry. The local newswoman announcing the death toll could barely get her words out and began to choke up. To this day, I have never seen a news reporter break down quite like this. I remember just feeling numb at the time. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that one of the worst school shootings in American history had just happened so close to my house.

When my dad got home from work that day, he hugged me and started crying. This scared the shit out of me because I had rarely seen my dad cry. This, in a way, snapped me into reality and helped show me the gravity of the situation.

The next day we still had class, which looking back now, seems crazy. That day was one of the weirdest and heaviest days of school I’ve ever experienced. There were police armed with AR-15s at the entrance, the same type of guns used to cause such carnage nearby less than 24 hours before. 

As I entered my school, which now felt like occupied territory, the feeling of shock and fear could be felt in the air. We did nothing that day; the teachers were as dumbfounded about what happened the day before as the students were.

Some teachers did things to help us get our minds off the horrible event. My chemistry teacher bought a class pet that day, a rabbit she kept in the class the rest of the year. My English teacher bought pizza for the class, which felt odd because something like that would usually be reserved for a class party. The mood in the class was more like a funeral.

The following week as protests began to pick up among students at Stoneman Douglas and around the area, our school staged a walkout. I had never been in any type of protest before this, and it was a breathtaking experience. My high school was massive, with 4,500 plus students, so the walkout felt like a substantial protest.

 Multiple news helicopters hovered above as we walked down the middle of a street to a nearby park with the shared goal of protesting the lack of gun control that has resulted in so many dead children in schools across America.

Once the crowd had gathered, multiple students from Stoneman Douglas, spoke about their experiences, which were all horrific and disturbing; causing many people to break down and cry in the crowd, including the speakers.

My high school never felt the same after what happened. The next year, a big gate was constructed around the main entrance and another fence around the entire perimeter of the school. We had to have these special IDs to wear on lanyards all the time. Getting into the school in the morning felt like going through customs. 

Different tributes and memorials were put up towards the main entrance area of the school. A big poster board was put out for students to write messages to the Stoneman Douglas school. Poster boards were put up throughout the school calling for gun control and the banning of assault rifles. 

On the one month anniversary of the shooting, we all gathered in the school’s courtyard for a memorial and a call for action. Some students stood up and gave speeches. I vividly remember one where a student exclaimed that this wasn’t normal and that trying to act like everything was fine would further normalize school shootings. Red and White balloons were let up into the air, symbolizing the colors of the Parkland school. 

On the anniversary of Columbine, our school put out 13 desks to honor the victims of that tragedy; I remember seeing on the news that at Columbine in Colorado, they were doing walkouts that day. It was amazing to see different schools across the country refusing to forget victims of the past while simultaneously standing in solidarity with the school in my county.

The following year, when I was a senior, many new school shooting drills were put into the school curriculum and would be done monthly. The principal explained these over the intercom with a piercing alarm that sounded like a mix of a police siren and nuclear bomb warning. This is what would go on in the event of an actual school shooting.

For drills, we would turn the lights off and all gather in a specific classroom spot. We would have to put our knees into our stomachs, and the entire class of usually 25 students all squeezed into the area and stayed behind a little blue line of tape. How this would save any of us if high powered bullets were flying through the air was never explained or even brought up.

I found it interesting how some students would joke around during these drills, usually the underclassman. This was the first year we had to do this. Some students were already becoming normalized to exercises designed to protect kids from violent shooters, a far cry from the fire drills and tornado drills I had grown up with through elementary and middle school.

In January of that year, during my 2nd period, the intercom sounded off, a code yellow which meant that the school was under lockdown. A threat had been called in by phone. SWAT team and a massive amount of police swarmed the school. We heard helicopters buzzing above and very little information was relayed to us.

Police and SWAT went room to room in the buildings with long guns and police dogs, I was out in a farther building, and they never went where I was. I saw videos from other students of police in their classrooms and them checking bookbags and closets. After nearly five hours, we were finally let out and allowed to go home. The line for the bathroom was around the hallway, as nobody was let out during the entire lockdown. I walked past concerned parents, all waiting outside the school. There was so much commotion, and this was only a false alarm.

The next day the principal thanked everyone for their cooperation and said he was not sure if it was “the real thing or not.” One of the only mementos I have of that strange time is a red ribbon that was given out the day after the shooting and my memories.

Since then, I have graduated and gone to the University of Colorado, where I have not done a school shooting drill since I left Florida. The scourge of mass shootings is something that I could not get away from even half a country away.

A little over a year after being in Boulder, the massacre at the King Soopers occurred, again devastating a community I called home. The threat of a mass shooting rips through the semblance of safety in even the most picturesque of towns.

The Table Mesa shopping center in South Boulder is a place I frequented often, and still do to this day. The randomness of this shooting was so striking and shocking at the time. Even after a mass killing had happened close to me before, I could not believe something like this would ever happen in Boulder, a place that felt world’s away from everything that happened in my county in Florida.

Being so close to these events makes one realize that an armed gunman can go into any peaceful area where people are just going about their lives and turn the area into a macabre display of death and brutality that changes everyone involved forever. 

I wonder how different my life could have turned out if those gunmen targeted my school or the grocery stores I usually go to in Boulder instead of the King Soopers. The randomness of mass shootings in America leaves so many near the constant possibility of life changing violence. Others never make it out and leave behind families and friends broken by grief, just becuase they were out doing something as ordinary as buying groceries or seeing a movie.

The news of the horrific slaughter of innocent Children at an Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has again forced the public to recognize and reckon with the epidemic of mass killings unique to our country. Whenever another shooting happens, all the memories of that tragic time in my community come flooding back as I reflect on how close but at the same time how far I was from such a heinous act of violence.

It is frustrating to see more and more young people’s lives lost and be met with such inaction time and time again. It will be up to my generation to push for change. Asking to be able to go to school or the grocery store without the chance of being maimed by gunfire or seeing your classmates brutally butchered is something that should be guaranteed.

American children are currently growing up in a country where these school shootings occur more than anywhere else and more frequently than ever before. My parents did not grow up with this, but I did, and I hope this country can come together and make it so my generation’s kids do not have to grow up in schools plagued by bloodshed and fear.  


On the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018,

A massive manhunt in the Lakeside neighborhood ended peacefully Tuesday when a juvenile offender who escaped from custody was apprehended.  17 year old Juan Ocegueda took off from Primary Dental at 5801 W. 44th Avenue after stabbing his custodial officer during a dental appointment.  

The incident happened around 8:45 a.m. and Ocegueda was taken into custody at 2 p.m. following a door to door search in Mountain View.

Ocegueda stabbed the corrections officer who accompanied him to the dentist multiple times.  A member of the staff told Bucket List Community Café that Ocegueda asked to go to the bathroom and when his handcuffs were removed he pulled a knife, stabbed the guard and fled. 


His leg shackles prevented him from going far and he was picked up at 43rd and Eaton.  During the search neighbors were advised to shelter in place because Ocegueda was considered armed and dangerous.  Ocegueda was hiding near a garage with shackles still around his legs when police finally caught up with him. 

“He ran after me with the knife, found the door, and ran out,” said Jacqueline, who worked for Primary Dental and witnessed the entire incident. The suspect hurled obscenities as Jacqueline went to help the injured guard. “I just thought to help that guy and thought about my son,” she said tearfully.

Agencies on the scene were the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and SWAT Team, the Arvada Police Department and the Lakeside Police Department which has its offices next door to Primary Dental.  

Police and SWAT equipped with long guns, body armor and dogs combed around houses nearby as helicopters and drones scanned the area overhead for any sign of Ocegueda. The suspect wore tan pants and a white t-shirt at the time of his escape. Jefferson County Police released multiple photos of the juvenile escapee to help the public be alert.

Ocegueda was being held at the Platte Valley Juvenile Detention facility in Greeley before his brief escape. The suspect was originally arrested for his involvement in a carjacking and robbery. Attempted murder and charges related to fleeing could be added to his sentence. 

The corrections officer who was stabbed multiple times and taken to a local hospital is expected to make a full recovery. 

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department tweeted “We are grateful to report that the correctional officer who was stabbed multiple times in Lakeside did not sustain life threatening injuries during the attack.  He will be treated and released from the hospital today.” 

The knife that was used in the stabbing was not a dental tool from Primary Dental. At this time, law enforcement officials are still not sure how the suspect was able to obtain and conceal the weapon. 

Jefferson County Sheriff’s office thanked the different agencies that provided assistance in the search for Ocegueda as well as their excellent teamwork in locating the suspect.

A massive manhunt in the Lakeside neighborhood

On Monday, Commerce City hosted its annual Memorial Day parade and filled the streets surrounding Central Elementary School. Clusters of motorcycles, chorusing firetrucks, and waving banners drew families and friends to the curbsides. 

Bertha Soria, who lives on a corner across from the elementary school, spent her eighteenth year watching the Commerce City Memorial Day parade from her front yard.  The celebration, and the holiday in its entirety, means a lot to Bertha as she has multiple veterans in her family.

“My brother, my uncle, my other uncle, and my other uncle, who passed away, all served in the army, navy, and air force. I always call up my brother and two uncles on Memorial Day.” 

Having grown up in a military family, Bertha says these types of celebrations and ceremonies have always been important to her. She reminisces on the days when she lived in Texas, 

“I got used to the types of parades with big floats and flower parades in Texas. The parades here are much different. This parade consists more of actual stuff going on in the community.” 

Waving to the public from the streets were firemen, policemen, band students, political campaigners, and local vendors. The simplicity of it all—a community gathered to honor thousands of brave and selfless souls—reminds folks that hope, love, and compassion are still present in our chaos-stricken world. 

Similarly, Bertha’s story reminds us that while surroundings can change, the devotion we have to our loved ones does not. 

“I lived in Texas, but my husband lived up here in Colorado. I moved up here with him and we bought the house in 2001. When we first bought the house, we used to walk around the block together and get to know our neighbors. I didn’t know anyone, being from Texas. But he knew everyone because he was raised in Commerce City.” 

“When my husband was alive, his whole family would come over for the parade and we would have a big barbecue. We would put out a tent and chairs early that morning so we would all have a place to sit during the parade. We’d make breakfast tacos, have a barbecue for lunch, and make drinks. It was really fun. I would even make popsicles for kids running around during the parade.” 

As Bertha tells her Memorial Day stories from the years passed, she glances down her street, as if to make note of her ever-changing surroundings. She points to the half-built apartments down the street from her house, intrigued by the thought of getting so many new neighbors in the upcoming months.

“The people in my neighborhood are always changing. Most of them move out after two years or so. My neighbors are always different, even though I’m always here.” 

Though her neighbors may change, you can always find Bertha, year after year, peacefully watching the parade from her lawn with red, white, and blue streamers in her ponytail. True to the spirit of Memorial Day, Bertha reminds us of the importance of remembrance.  Remembrance makes the heroes we have lost not of the past, but part of our present and future. 

On Monday, Commerce City hosted its annual

Over the past two years, many people in the Denver area have been met with an unwelcome surprise when trying to start their cars. Their vehicles lurch forward and sputter as if the engine was failing. Many soon come to realize that the problem was the catalytic converter – or lack of one. Catalytic converter thefts have increased tenfold in the last two years in Denver, with more and more thieves routinely plucking the easy to access component to sell for large sums of money.

In 2019, the number of catalytic converter thefts in Denver was 14.  In 2020, this grew to 268 before absolutely exploding in 2021 with 2,671 reported thefts. So far in 2022, 700 vehicles have either had their catalytic converters stolen or damaged.

“It is extremely expensive for the victim of a theft to replace a converter, and there’s potentially the loss of access to the vehicle while it’s being fixed,” said Douglas Schepman, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Denver Police Department. “It creates a significant hardship for the folks in our community.”

Once a catalytic converter is taken off a vehicle, there is no way of really telling the difference between a legally acquired one and a stolen one.

“One of the things that makes these thefts challenging to investigate and this crime difficult to enforce is that catalytic converters do not have a serial number; and so if a catalytic converter was recovered, how do you prove where and when it was stolen or from whom?” said Schepman.

Adrienne Benavidez, a Colorado State Representative from District 32 in Denver which includes the Commerce City and Berkeley neighborhoods,  is no stranger to being a victim of catalytic converter theft. Representative Benavidez’s daughter had a catalytic converter stolen from her car in the middle of the night in June. Benavidez saw firsthand the very real problems it can cause for the victims of these crimes.

Her daughter could not get it replaced for two months, until the end of August. Thankfully she was insured which made the entire process much easier, but the cost can vary dramatically from car to car.

“Depending on the type of vehicle, it can take months, and if your insurance does not provide you with a rental car, you have to find alternative transportation so that it can be extremely disruptive to people’s lives,” said Benavidez.

Because of her experience, she was one of the prime sponsors of House Bill 1217 and Senate Bill 9, which aim to prevent catalytic converter theft by establishing an identification and grant program.

“Senate Bill 9 makes it so if you sell a detached catalytic converter, whoever you sell it to has to get all this information about you to be able to track where it came from,” said Benavidez. “The reason is that right now if you just go to sell it, there’s no way to track who sold it to them.”  

Senate Bill 9, which was passed, will incentivize those who buy scrap metal to take this information down or be faced with fines and penalties. 

Once her daughter got her converter replaced, a small cage was placed around it, a prevention strategy growing in popularity as a theft deterrent.

The precious metals they contain bring a high price for thieves looking to sell the converters. A catalytic converter has Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium. On their own accord, these metals could be sold for a good amount of cash, but a catalytic converter contains all three of these metals at once, creating sort of a jackpot for those looking to earn money quickly.  Criminals do not usually have the capacity to extract the metals on their own and must go to the buyer for this process.      

Catalytic converters can be sold as scrap metal for between 300 and 1500 dollars. Many times thieves will target many cars at once in one area, further increasing the money they make when selling the metals. In a list of addresses of thefts provided to Bucket List Community Cafe by the Denver Police Department, repeat addresses pop up frequently when combing through the thefts from 2019-to 2022. This means multiple vehicles are being hit at the same time. In some cases, more than five cars were targeted at once. 

A whopping 26 vehicles had converters stolen near 11795 E 45th Ave one night in August, 2020 in the Montbello neighborhood. Another big theft in the Park Hill neighborhood had 27 cars impacted near 4800 N Dahlia Street in February 2021.  Specific car brands seem to be much higher targets for theft. Police have noticed that Honda’s Toyota’s and Fords are the top three makes for reported catalytic converter thefts in Denver.

While the police cannot determine if the rise of thefts is related to supply chain issues, backlogs are making it more difficult to get a converter replaced.

While inconvenient to the victims, these crimes largely have been without violence, but police are beginning to see a more worrying trend as they continue. Denver Police found that some thieves have had a “lookout” accompany them while they slide under the cars to saw off the catalytic converter. 

This “lookout” usually carries a firearm, according to the Denver Police Department, and could threaten someone who tries to intervene in the converter theft. While police always recommend that you do not approach thieves and call 911 instead, the possibility of someone confronting someone who is vandalizing their car is a genuine concern.

Engravings and VIN numbers are starting to be put on converters, especially on new ones given to victims of the thefts. It will be substantially harder for criminals to sell the catalytic converters when they have some sort of identification attached to them.  The Denver Police are looking to get more people aware of these thefts and have even hosted events where they engrave or tag people’s converters.

“We have partnered with Lincoln Tech and have done several etching events where the community could come in for free,” said Schepman. “I believe we have etched about 750 cars over the course of those events.”

The Denver Police have also done a pilot program in District 5 in Northeast Denver, which covers the Montbello neighborhood, where engraving tools are loaned to community members for them to do the etching themselves.  For now, they say the best way forward is to prevent these thefts from happening until the criminals can be tracked and investigated. 

“The problem is not that we do not have good penalties in place; it’s catching the people that do it to charge them,” said Benavidez.

Over the past two years, many people