Lunchtime Discussion on Social Justice and Education with Mike Johnston ’97, LAW ’03

Monday, May 6 | Denver, CO

Former Colorado State Senator and US Senate candidate Mike Johnston joined the YANA Colorado chapter for a lunchtime presentation on May 6th. Mike shared a brief summary of his history as a high school principal in some of Colorado’s most challenging communities; as an advocate for all youth regardless of race, background, or circumstance; and as a proponent for combining both policy and practice to elicit social change. As Mike opened the room for questions and discussion, he encouraged the 20 attendees to remember that our problems as a society are in front of us – not between us. If we stand shoulder to shoulder, we can face our issues together. 

In response to participant questions, Mike advised that it doesn’t matter how close to the fire a person stands in the bucket brigade; if you’re helping, that’s what counts. He also strongly encouraged those of us who work for local non-profits to get to know our state representatives and senators. From his first-hand experience, Mike says that politicians hear from lobbyists loud and clear all the time. To have a personal conversation with local non-profits is refreshing and well-received. He suggested attending monthly coffees with your state representative or senator where you can make significant impact with little effort.

Though this was not a political event, many lingered after the presentation to follow up with Mike’s campaign manager with additional questions and ways to get involved. Others continued to network and visit amongst the other attendees, all of whom came from a wide range of backgrounds. This highly successful event was summarized by attendee Danielle Ivanovich, Colorado Heart Gallery Coordinator at The Adoption Exchange, who stated,

This was such a fantastic event. Thank you again for sharing the opportunity. Great brain food to start off the week!”


As a CO State Senator, Mike passed over 100 bills with bipartisan support, including legislation to fight racial discrimination, protect DREAMers, promote rural economic growth, prevent gun violence, and improve early literacy. Mike was one of the co-founders of New Leaders, a national educational non-profit whose goal is to ensure high academic achievement for all children by developing transformational school leaders, and of the Urban Leaders Fellowship, a seven-week fellowship for leaders with a focus on policy and practice. He was also principal of three different schools in some of Colorado’s most underserved communities and a teacher in rural Mississippi, which inspired him to write his acclaimed book “In the Deep Heart’s Core.”

For Mike’s bio, click HERE