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The Westwind

The student news site of Arvada West High School

The Westwind

The student news site of Arvada West High School

The Westwind

Senior Rhiannon Danborn’s three A’s : activist, artist, athlete

Senior Rhiannon Danborn has had a vast involvement in the A-West and local community. Photo Courtesy of Danborn


“ If you ask my freshman year self ‘Who are you going to be in four years,’ I am not that person, and I think that’s a really good thing,” voices Arvada West High School senior Rhiannon Danborn.

Undoubtedly, there are many seniors at Arvada West High School who have experienced change over the past four years and have left an impact on communities in and outside of school. But for Danborn, the topic of change is a little different: not only has she experienced change throughout high school, but she has been the change, not only at A-West, but in the larger Denver area. 


Activist: Team Enough

After a history of supporting her sister in March for Our Lives, a gun violence prevention program, in 2022 Danborn began to take steps towards her own role in gun violence prevention. That year, Danborn was invited via social media to organize a rally in Downtown Denver following the Uvalde School Shooting. This caught the attention of Amanda Wilcox, who then invited Danborn alongside five others to begin the first Colorado Chapter of Team Enough, a national gun violence prevention organization, known as Team Enough Denver or T.E.D.

Being a founder of the first Colorado Chapter, Danborn has been one of the six people on the Board of Directors for T.E.D. For her, this leadership role has expanded her view on the issue of gun violence and she explains that “not only are we working with politicians and civic leaders, but we are also working with people who experience all different aspects of gun violence… It’s not just a mass shooting or a school thing. ”

In the past, Danborn mentions that Denver’s Team Enough has struggled to get momentum and even saying that it felt that they were “ yelling into the abyss,” when “ trying to put stuff out on social media.”

Danborn and her fellow Board of Directors members then asked, “How do we directly reach kids?” The answer for them was forming subchapters.

A picture of Danborn speaking at a rally she helped organize.
Picture courtesy of Danborn.

Recently, Danborn has begun an A-West subchapter of T.E.D., which she started up for a number of reasons. Her driving reason is that her experience with Team Enough  has made her feel like she is “engaged in something that is actually making a difference.” 

She continues to explain that “I think a lot of kids are in a similar position, [and] have a lot of strong feelings about these issues- not just gun violence, but any other social justice issue-  and feel like they can’t make any impact.”

Team Enough Denver has held spaces for members to raise their voices and advocate in the past. From passing bills through Congress to lobbying days at Denver’s Capitol to rallies, members have not been short of opportunities to make their voices heard. While these have been, as Danborn describes “the flashy cool thing” about her time with Team Enough, what stands out to her the most is an art show T.E.D. facilitated in the spring of 2023, following the shootings at Denver East High School.

“We saw this need from a lot of the people in Denver and like the Denver East community, a need to sort of process, heal, and sort of deal with all of the emotions that come with this issue in a way that lets their voices be heard differently.”

The work in this show consists of all forms of art, such as spoken word pieces, drawings, and paintings. For T.E.D. this was a way to expand the horizons of their activism, by moving away from traditional forms such as rallies and protests which Danborn says “are focused on the anger, and it’s an outcry.”

“ It’s like how can we process some of the other emotions surrounding this issue?” Danborn asks.


Artist: Landscapes and Recognition

While Danborn may have helped run an art show for T.E.D., it was in no way an introduction to the world of art and creativity to her. Students at A-West may recognize Danborn’s vibrant landscape paintings and drawings.

 She describes her connection to her work, particularly her landscapes, and says, “When I stare at the mountains, it is this big sense of awe and fascination with nature. For me, painting and being able to lay that on a canvas lets me process all of those emotions and feelings. I also just really love the outdoors and spending time in the outdoors.”

For Danborn, “my sketchbook is where I mess with ideas and composition, but I think the process of creation for me is …once I get an idea and have experimented some, I just kind of go for it.”
Photo courtesy of Danborn

Visual Arts teacher Candacie Schrader has had Danborn in her classes for three years now and has witnessed Danborn’s growth as a student, an artist, and a person. In her artwork, Schrader comments, “ I feel like this year she’s really trying to adapt and connect with… how does she take that inspiration and loosen up that idea?  I think that is even creating more meaningful art because she is able to create more meaningful connections because she is kind of slowing down a little bit and thinking about the composition rather than painting a landscape.”

Last year, in Jeffco School’s 52nd Annual High School Art Show, Danborn won the Mountainside Art Guild Award of Excellence in drawing, and her work was one of the pieces purchased by the district to hang at Jeffco’s Education Center.

The piece, titled “ Nine Twenty- Seven,” is part of a two-work study that depicts a mountain view of Maroon Bells. Reflecting on this accomplishment, Danborn says, “It’s kind of cool because it is up there with all the other art that’s been purchased. It’s a cool way that I feel like I have contributed to the great Jeffco community.”

“Nine Twenty- Seven,” Daborn ‘s piece purchased by Jeffco’s Schools.

For Schrader, the purchase and display of the work is an immense moment of pride. “ I mean, it’s all students, but that’s a prime example of all of the hard work and dedication students spend, to not only love what they are doing in the classroom but to also take that out to the community and really be happy… that they’re proud to show it off and just share with a bigger audience is so important…I think it was really cool and of course I was happy. How could you not?”


Athlete: Cross Country and Track

For most of her life, Danborn has been an active runner whose family was “big on family fun runs for most of my childhood.” When she began high school in the fall of 2020, she decided to follow in the footsteps of her older siblings and run for A-West’s Cross Country and Track team.

In her freshman, sophomore, and senior year, Danborn ran for the team. However, in her junior year, she had a pulmonary embolism. Due to that, she was not able to run, but she got to “participate in things like supporting my teammates and going to meets and races, which is super cool.”

Her coach, Todd Moore, comments on this time of Danborn’s life and notes her perseverance by saying, “Most people, after such a challenging health issue, would have given up and quit. Rhiannon did not. [It was]  quite the opposite.  I had to hold her back.”

He continues to say that “her teammates didn’t treat her any differently even though she wasn’t competing. She was still a valuable member of the team. Rhiannon always had a great attitude towards running, but not being able to train and compete seemed to give her a new appreciation for the sport.”

While Danborn clearly has an appreciation for her sport, the thing that is most important that cross country and track have provided her with is friendship and community. In that community, the things that stand out most to her are the little moments like recent snowball fights with her teammates.

“ I’ve developed pretty much my best friends through cross country and track…  I think they’ve made a world of difference,” she says fondly.


Reflection on High School

When Danborn sits and reflects on the last four years of her life, she concludes that high school has taught her to involve herself in many different ways.

“I think I came into high school, and like academics was my thing. I was going to take all the honors and AP courses, and that was my thing.”

Though she has proven time and time again that she can do so much more than academics, it is not fair to cut her short of her academic achievements. Danborn is a top 100  finalist for the Boettcher scholarship where fifty students in the state of Colorado receive full coverage for instate colleges. 

Her teachers can also testify to Danborn’s outstanding academic drive and knowledge. For example, science teacher Charles English, who taught Danborn Chemistry, one of her favorite classes in high school, explains, “ I’ve probably never had a student who worked so hard to stay up with her class work, despite missing so much school. She worked and worked and struggled and learned, and did a lot of it on her own, to be successful in my class. It’s just a testament to her drive.”

Or in another one of her favorite classes, Contemporary U.S. Issues, taught by social studies teacher John Gallup, who comments that “ she’s awesome, there’s no doubt of that. She’s obviously intelligent, and she’s committed to her education, and she opens up in class as much as anybody I’ve ever had.”

When it comes to teachers that have impacted her, Danborn acknowledges that she is fortunate enough to have had many teachers that have influenced her. In high school, she specifically mentions Schrader, and English teacher Angela Dryer, both of whom Danborn knows care “ about me beyond just how I’m doing in the class, which is hugely important to me,” and that “ both of them have challenged me a whole lot, which I appreciate even though I always didn’t in the moment.”

Dryer, who has had Danborn in AP Lang and currently has her in AP Research describes Danbon as a student who “ is never content with it’s just good, or ‘you did great.’  If she can’t get that response from the person she is asking from, she will seek it out until she finds someone that will tear her work apart, or make her think differently, or push her to the edge to say. ‘Now leap over that cliff.’ She never plays it safe…She’s just fully invested and like just soaring.”

So much change is around the corner for the class of 2024. Since her last semester of high school is here, Danorn wants to “recognize this is the last time I’m ever going to be in high school and [to]enjoy all of the fun things seniors get to do in the second semester of senior year.”

But of course, the end of the class of 2024’s high school experience is near. When she looks into the future, Danborn plans on majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and would like to major in Political Science as well.

Humble as ever, Danborn is “not sure what my impact will be in the future, but I think that even if it’s just small, positive impacts on individuals, I don’t need it to be anything grand. That is how I want to leave my legacy.”

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About the Contributor
Chloe Rios, Editor
Chloe Rios is a junior this year, and it is her second year on staff. In her free time, she loves to paint, listen to a lot of Taylor Swift, and spend time with her friends. She is a part of A-West's Theatre Company, National Honors Society, and Link Crew. She loves 'The Westwind', and is super excited to be back for another year of journalism!

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