How to Keep Our Teens Engaged This Summer

And as I think back, makes me wonder how

The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia

All the kids playing out front

Little boys messin’ round with the girls playin’ double-dutch.

–Will Smith, “Summertime”

As parents, we look back fondly at the summer jobs we had: day camp counselor, lifeguard, dishwasher, pizza delivery guy, grocery stocker, ice cream scooper. We are nostalgic about summertime friends, beach-time, and picnics. We hope for that combination of freedom and purpose for our kids. So, it pains us when they are drawn to their phones, their video games, their quiet rooms. It frustrates us when the jobs we did at 14 and 15 are now reserved for 16 or 18+.

While our parents just let us loose, it feels like we have to be more deliberate to make the best of summers today. So, while acknowledging these won’t work for every teen, we offer a list of ideas to help keep our teens out of their rooms and engaged when school lets out:

  1. Invite the families in your neighborhood to a recurring Sunday potluck barbecue and have your teenagers run games for the younger kids.
  2. Work with your teen now to find a summer job or start a babysitting business. If it’s an outdoor job, all the better. (They can check out the Job Board in Post-Grad.)
  3. Or, encourage your teen to apply for a volunteer gig. There are great opportunities all over town. Museums, parks, etc. The South Suburban Parks & Recreation District has both jobs and a VolunTeen program your teen can apply to:
  4. Set aside no-technology family time to sit outside after dinner any night they are home.
  5. Go camping. Get them to plan the trip.
  6. Put them in charge of your gardening.
  7. Select a good book and read it at the same time your high school student does. Try to talk about it.
  8. Assign them one dinner to cook each week.
  9. Register them for a summer class. Anything that interests them.
  10. Take walks together. Kids tend to talk more when they are moving.

Late to Late Start

With Spring Break behind us, and less than two months to go until summer, let’s see if our high schoolers can break some records in getting to school on time!

As you know, as of February 1, students are serving Detention for arriving late to class. To clarify, Detention is served after three unexcused late arrivals. This has always been the rule; we are merely seeing stricter enforcement. Those serving Detention, do so after school on Tuesday or Thursday, with homework to do during that time.

It sounds like the most common late arrivals occur for the first class of our “late start” Wednesdays. Traffic is the #1 excuse – and a real one that must be managed effectively before the change in schedule next year, when more of our students’ core classes will take place earlier in the day.

As we all know, there is definitely a dramatic change in traffic between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m. Especially for those coming out of district, with longer drive times anyway, it is a good idea to get your young drivers to use this spring’s Wednesdays as a gauge for next year’s daily schedule. The added pressure of Detention is already making an impact and is a good encouragement tool for those whose high school students hit the snooze button one too many times, try to fit in a video game before class, or otherwise think of “late start” as an excuse to pick up a Latte.

Unfortunately for our sleepy students, an hour’s late start does not equate to an hour longer at home.

A Sneak Peek into High School

A new television documentary might spark some interesting discussions at home.

“Undercover High,” currently airing on A&E Television, is an enlightening series for parents and educators. The producers, in partnership with a high school principal and superintendent in Topeka, Kansas, posed seven undercover adults as new students (without telling teachers or students) to see what’s really going on with teens there.

Episodes focus on the overwhelming presence and power of social media, race and diversity issues, the struggle of LGBT students, community violence, bullying and mental illness. As the adults get to know students – as peers and friends – they are surprised how much has changed for teens. And they give us a view into a real high school environment.

The series gives us more insight to use when we talk to our kids about the big issues they, or their friends, might be dealing with at school. Worth a look at

PTO Update

Just a reminder: the PTO supports a number of programs at Heritage through both volunteer hours and donated funds. All parents are welcome to participate, and it’s a great way to get to know others in the Heritage parent community. Plus, it’s another way to be “in the know.”


Currently a small-but-mighty group, we meet once a month to ensure progress toward our fundraising and project goals for the year, while also learning from Principal Stacey Riendeau about the latest goings-on around campus. We are currently working on the After-Prom Party. Please stop by an upcoming meeting:

  • March 21 at 9:00 a.m.
  • April 18 at 9:00 a.m.


The PTO will be expanding our communication to parents with a new blog series (twice a month posts) and consistent Facebook blurbs. The blog will cover a diverse range of topics from things happening at school or in the PTO, as well as issues families of teens face today. Please sign up to follow us at: (join 170+ followers to be in the know) and/or (with another 230+ followers).

Q&A with 2016-2017 PTO President, Kristi Lucas

Kristi Lucas, PTO President (2013-2017)

Kristi Lucas

Welcome to our Q&A with the PTO’s immediate past-president, Kristi Lucas!
Kristi served as president of the parent-teacher organization at Heritage High School for four years ending May 2017. Both of her children recently graduated from Heritage.

We caught up with Kristi as the 2016-2017 school year ended. We wanted to get her take on Heritage, the role of the PTO and what the single best thing a new Heritage parent can do.

Q.  How long have you lived in the Littleton area
A:  I’ve been here 10 years. Before that I spent 17 years in Atlanta.

Q, Where are you from, originally?
A: I’m originally from Milwaukee.

Q:  When did your first child start at Heritage?
A: 2012

Q: What three things have you liked best about the school?
A: I really like the staff and administration. I think HHS is a very inclusive, close-knit community. I’ve been impressed by all the clubs, sports and activities offered at HHS: There’s always something going on and there’s something for everyone!

Q:  What areas do you think provide the most opportunity for
A:  We are still struggling with ways to communicate and pulling folks in.

Q:  What role should the PTO play at Heritage?
A: Support for the staff and administration. Communication/information for parents. Support for critical programs. Encouraging parental involvement.

Q.  Has the role of the PTO changed since you have been on the board?
A:  I don’t think so. It has evolved and changed with the times but the mission remains the same.

Q: What do you see as your top contribution the the PTO board in the five years you served on it?
A:  I am proud of everything the PTO does to support the school. I am proud that it has remained fiscally sound and After-Prom continues with a strong committee. We’ve impacted the students by supporting the programs they need.

Q:  What advice do you have for a new Heritage family?
A:  Get involved!

Q: Any last word of advice for the Heritage parent community?
A:  Enjoy these high-school years. They go by so quickly!



2017 First-Gen Scholarships Winners Announced

Scholarship winners Verenice, Courtney and Valeria in the school courtyard, May 2017. (Photo credit: Brian Powers)

Congratulations to Heritage seniors Verenice, Courtney and Valeria (left to right), on winning $1,000 scholarships from the privately funded Net program for first-generation college students.

The program, run by Heritage High School Counselor Brian Powers, is a year-long class to help students find their post-high school path. The program includes tours of area colleges, help with applications and sources for financial aid.

Thanks to the Heritage community, including an annual donation from your Heritage High School PTO, the program was able to offer more scholarship money this year.

“Because of a generous year of private funding, we were able to offer three, $1,000 scholarships,” said Powers in a May letter to the parents and others who support the program.

Winner details:

> Verenice will attend University of Colorado, Denver, in the fall and plans to double major in Spanish and chemistry. She wants to go to medical school and become a pediatrician

> Courtney will attend University of Colorado, Boulder, in the fall. She plans to major in psychology and pre-medicine, and become a psychiatrist.

> Valeria, who said her mom cried when she told her she’d won the scholarship, plans to major in elementary education at University of Arizona or University of Northern Colorado.

These three winners were chosen by a committee of teachers and a PTO parent representative from a pool of qualified Net program applicants based on academic achievement, potential for success in college, work and volunteerexperience and family need, among other factors.

To learn more about the program, or to volunteer or donate funds, please contact Mr. Powers at (303) 347-7614 or



Last PTO Meeting of 2016!


Join us Wednesday morning for the last Heritage PTO meeting of the year!

All Heritage parents, teachers and staff are welcome to stop by anytime between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. We’ll be downstairs in the Heritage Community Room.

Principal Riendeau will share the latest school news and the PTO board will discuss current and future projects. Your input is appreciated! Coffee will be available.

Get the whole picture! Come to the PTO meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 12

artThe PTO meetings are the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of Heritage High School. Principal Riendeau attends every meeting and shares her updates, ideas, concerns and wisdom. She is always open to any and all questions and discussions, as is the entire PTO board.

We’ll be in the Community Room from 9:00 a.m. to 11 a.m. Feel free to drop in anytime and have a cup of coffee and catch up on the latest news about your student’s school.


After-prom party planning meeting this Thursday! Parents needed!

after20prom20partyParents plan and run the big After Prom Party held at Heritage each spring. There’s lots to do to make it a success for our students and their guests. Traditionally, the freshmen and sophomore parents play a big role in planning the party, which is for juniors and seniors.

Join us Thursday evening at 7 p.m. for our first planning meeting! We’ll meet at Heritage in the Senior Pit, near the lunch room. There a dozens of jobs available, big and small. One is sure to be a fit for you. Volunteering is a great way to get involved and make new friends.

Questions? Contact parent volunteer Betsy Rosenthal at

Congrats to the 2016 First Gen Scholars!

First Generation Scholars 2016 receive scholarships at Senior Awards Night, May 2016

Congratulations First Generation Scholarship winners! Three Heritage High School students in the school’s NET Program were awarded merit-based scholarships at the Class of 2016 Senior Awards Night in May.

The scholarships, which are funded in part by your contributions to the PTO, are part of the NET Program for high school students who will be the first in their families to attend college. The program at Heritage is run by Brian Powers, a school counselor here who modeled it after one started by a former colleague at Littleton High School.

Powers uses money donated to the program to charter a bus to take the students on college campus visits around Colorado. The program also includes regular class meetings to talk about the best way to get ready to apply for college, scholarship opportunities and on-campus success strategies.

For more information or to donate or volunteer with the program, please contact Mr. Powers directly at