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Check out Pop Culture Classroom’s accomplishments in 2022! This was an incredible year, thanks to our awesome community of supporters.

By Chris Burley, Marketing and Communications Manager

What a year. 2022 began with a sense of uncertainty and possibility — and ends with a sense of gratitude, accomplishment, and optimism.

The pandemic, inflation, increasing extremism and polarization in our communities and around the country — along with stressed schools, students, educators, families, and communities —loomed large on the horizon as Pop Culture Classroom’s small team began this year’s work to inspire, educate, and connect kids with their communities using pop culture.

But as 2022 dawned, we saw something else, too. Possibility.

Throughout the year, Pop Culture Classroom tackled the challenges and — more important — helped thousands of students improve their literacy, explore creative self-expression, and celebrate diverse, connected communities during challenging times.

Big Moments in 2022

This year, we saw some big moments at Pop Culture Classroom, including plenty of workshops for kids, new resources for educators, our first full show with FAN EXPO Denver, and the fifth annual Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards.

And that’s just the start! I asked some of the people who help Pop Culture Classroom’s work possible to share some of their most meaningful memories from the past year and even added a couple of memories of my own.

First, we had some stellar guests for Experience the Comics, Educators’ Day, and on the Kids’ Lab Stage at FAN EXPO Denver this year!

Not only did I get to interview some personal heroes like Troy Baker (The Last of Us) and Roger Clark (Red Dead Redemption II), but they, along with all of our other guests like Anthony Daniels (Star Wars), and Patricia Summersett (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) got to inspire kids and teens to pursue their passions and careers in pop culture.

Troy Baker (The Last of Us) with Matt Slayter, Education Program Director
Troy Baker (The Last of Us) with Matt Slayter, Education Program Director

I also really enjoyed writing my first issue of Colorful History, Jerry Lawson and the Channel F. I’ve been managing and editing our Colorful History comics for a while, but this year I got to write my own issue about Jerry Lawson, the creator of the first true video game cartridge!

To top it off, I was lucky enough to have the issue drawn by Marcus Kwame Anderson, illustrator of the Eisner Award-Winning book, “The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History”.

PCC has a wealth of FREE resources for teachers and parents… but it hasn’t always been the easiest to find. This year, we re-built our website from the ground up with a whole new look and easier navigation. If you haven’t explored our website in a few months, poke around and see what new resources you can find!

Watching a dad dressed as Mr. Incredible hold a tiny pink spider while his daughter glued on googly eyes and seeing the joy on their faces reminded me why we are here at PCC. Our programs and workshops foster a sense of community inclusiveness. A family that embraces pop culture and creates art together is truly a work of art!

Creating a creature in PCC'S Kids' Lab at FAN EXPO denver 2022
Creating a creature in PCC’S Kids’ Lab at FAN EXPO denver 2022

Another great memory: we reached over 1000 kids in outreach workshops, but the impact is best captured in their own words from the surveys at the end of the sessions. Students who attended PCC classes said:

“You Inspired me, I feel safe and I feel like I belong, I want to write a book about my ideas from this class, I like this class and I love you guys!”

The kids we serve feel seen, valued, and more creative after our workshops.

Pop Culture Classroom's workshops are educational and fun!
Pop Culture Classroom’s workshops are educational and fun!

Joining a creative and collaborative team where I feel valued as a person and like my contributions matter is a real gift! This team is dynamic, hardworking, and so encouraging. I love the work we do, the impact we make on kids and families in Colorado and the people I get to work with have made this transition a real delight!

I had so much fun watching parents and children react to the Slime Lab [in our Kids’ Lab at FAN EXPO Denver 2022]. They would get to the front of the line, and I would do my intro. The parents would laugh at the backstories, and the kids just wanted to know which kind of slime each was. Parents looked at the mess of cleaning up slime in my hands with fear while the children looked with such excitement.

The Slime Lab [in our Kids’ Lab at FAN EXPO Denver 2022 was a big hit with kids.
The Slime Lab in our Kids’ Lab at FAN EXPO Denver 2022 was a big hit with kids.

We had a few children who waited through the not-short line to get to make all three slime variations. It was great to see that they were enthusiastic and engaged enough that they wanted to spend their time at Con with us, learning about reactions and measurements.

I also enjoyed the smaller crowd at PopUP, which really allowed us to engage with each child that came through. We were able to teach them about cryptids, defensive tools like camouflage, and do the money math with them for the supply store. They really got the chance to learn and have fun with it and so did I!

A kid-created cryptid from PopUP Denver

I loved watching kids choosing their prizes in the Kids’ Lab. The thought that kids put into choosing their figurine, the excitement of kids and parents when they got their own dice bag, and kids being able to participate in games with their parents was incredibly heartwarming.

Adult and child select tabletop miniatures as prizes for completing activities in the PCC Kids' Lab at FAN EXPO Denver

PopUP! was the first big Pop Culture Classroom event I was able to attend. It was a joy to see the PCC team in action and to connect with our volunteers and the staff and volunteers of our fantastic partner organizations who helped make this a great day of engaging learning.

Matt Hess at PopUP Denver
Matt Hess at PopUP Denver

My favorite developments in 2022 were:

  • Hiring our new Executive Director! Matt Hess was awesome in the interviews, and we just knew he would be a great fit for the organization. I am so happy he is on our team!
  • Moving into a new office. It was a lot of work, but I am very grateful to find our new location. It is a much better size for us, and I love being in a building with other nonprofits.
  • Hiring Emilee Klein, our new Event and Sponsorship Manager, and new contract Classroom Programming Coordinator Rachel Brazell. These two people bring so much joy and positivity to the team and they both rock their positions!

In late 2021 and throughout the year, Pop Culture Classroom was honored by the Denver Mayor’s Awards for Arts and Culture. The award recognizes our work with local students to promote literacy, learning, creative self-expression, and connection through the pop culture kids love.

More than anything, though, I found a great deal of joy in seeing kids learn, express themselves creatively, and have fun at our different workshops and community events throughout the year.

Pop Culture Classroom’s Accomplishments by the Numbers

“Scrappy” isn’t just Scooby Doo’s nephew. It also defines Pop Culture Classroom award-winning programs.

With just 5 full-time staff members, 10 part-time outreach instruction team members, and a part-time Art Manager for our increasingly popular Colorful History educational comics and teaching resources, Pop Culture Classroom made a big impact in 2022…

You Can Help Us Do More in 2023

As much as we’ve accomplished, we know that there is much more to do to engage, inspire, educate, and connect students through the pop culture they love. You can help with your year-end tax-deductible donation.


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