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LOVE OF PUEBLO IS THE HEART OF GATEWAY TO THE SOUTHWEST PROJECT

 A young student speaks at a podium as the superintendent watches on proudly. The fifth graders of Minnequa Elementary School are not shy about their love and appreciation for the Pueblo community, nor about encouraging community leaders to express their sentiments on why living in Pueblo is overflowing with benefits.
 
Such was the heart of Tuesday’s workshop, the latest offering in an ongoing partnership between Minnequa, the City of Pueblo, the business community and partnering agencies.
 
As a complement to the Gateway to the Southwest monument north of the city, the Lil Cats of Minnequa, under the direction of Public Participation Specialist Glenn Ballantyne and Principal Katie Harshman, offered verbal input that served as the foundation of a colorful and panoramic 4 x 8 Gateway to the Southwest painting created by Joe Cawfield that now hangs in the school’s foyer.
 
This painting, created through the vision and ideas of Lil Cats, reflects their love for Pueblo, especially the Bessemer area, and serves as reminder that these children will always have a special place in Pueblo's legacy.
 
The defining aspects of Pueblo -- its people, places and welcoming atmosphere -- are the central elements of the painting.
 
Those aspects took center stage Tuesday, with five fifth-grade leaders serving as “mentors” to District 60 and community notables, including Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso, D60 Director of Communications Dalton Sprouse, Mayor Nick Gradisar, and law enforcement representatives Captain Kenny Rider (Pueblo police) and Bureau Chief Dave Lucero (Sheriff’s office.)
 
A group of Minnequa students clap with approval from the audience.The Lil Cats first offered the reasons Pueblo is beloved to them and then encouraged their “mentees” to follow suit.
 
“I go to the best school, have fun with friends, hanging out while we fly kites above the trees or at Lake Minnequa.”
 
“I love Pueblo because Pueblo makes me feel safe with no trouble around. I make memories with people I love.”
 
“Pueblo is my home sweet home because of my family house and neighborhood. I love spending time on my bike or walking or going to the library.”
 
“I feel safe at home, school and neighborhood. I take my dogs for walks, and meet my friends in the park, or on the playground. I like how many warm days we have and all the shade.”
 
“I love Pueblo because it’s where I’m making my childhood memories with my friends, family and dog. My Mom lets me play in the park because we know our neighbors and it feels safe to be outside.”
 
It was then turn for the adults to express their feelings.
 
“I love Pueblo because of the many opportunities our community offers,” said Bureau Chief Lucero. “From the beautiful parks, to the Reservoir to us being able to host the Colorado State Fair, one of my favorite events.”
 
“I love Pueblo because it is my home,” Captain Rider offered. “This town has been good to me. My family lives here with me, and they are what’s most important.” Chief Lucero takes his turn in the dance line while several students watch on smiling
 
“With limitless potential and friends to be made, Pueblo offers our students and families a safe and welcoming home, with many unique ways to be creative and trustworthy,” added Communications Director Sprouse.
 
Superintendent Macaluso said her love of Pueblo centers on “people who are kind, loving and welcoming to others. Our people create a sense of belonging for all. We have great schools and great scholars…and the food is amazing!”
 
"I like Pueblo because our young people have such great potential, and for our parks and river trails," Mayor Gradisar said.
 
As part of the Gateway to the Southwest project, Lil Cats collaborated with Mr. Ballantyne on a jingle, “Pueblo is Our Home Sweet Home,” originally performed by the Pueblo Children's Chorale. With Mr. Ballantyne on banjo, the fifth graders joined together with the adults present for a spirited take on the catchy song.
 
The workshop also included a skit on the importance of respect, which evolved into a fun dance routine with both mentors and mentees showing off their moves.