Second-graders raise money to make light rail cheaper for those in need

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DENVER -- A history project about rail transportation in Denver has inspired a second-grade class to improve the future.

The Denver Expeditionary School is a few blocks from Union Station, so it made for a natural focus for a history lesson. Students spent the past year studying rail transportation for school and its influence on Denver.

“They raised $300,000 so the train can go through Denver,” said Maya Martinez, a second-grader.

But as they began to study the modern forms of rail transportation, including light rail, the students realized that not all of them were able to ride.

“Some people can’t afford passes because they’re going up and up,” second-grader Ben Gehrig said.

Gehrig said he saw that first-hand when a classmate and his family, who live along the light rail, couldn’t join him on a class trip.

“They missed the field trip because of the money," Gehrig said. "They didn’t have that much money for the full family.”

RTD has discounted passes for high school and college students, but the elementary class is hoping to expand the program.

“Elementary students are a little bit more challenging. You need both a parent and a child pass, so it is a more expensive ask," said Letia Frandina, with the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School. "But if we’re really going to connect and say you have choice of where we go to school, we need to find a way to make those more affordable.”

“They need the light rail so they can get to places that they need to get to like the hospital,” Martinez said.

The students have raised money and secured a $1,500 Denver Public Schools grant to kick-start a pilot program that will pay for light rail passes for classmates and their families.

Now they hope to keep raising funds and expand the program to even more families in need.

“If it works, I would be really, really happy because I like to help people out,” Martinez said.

The "Change for Trains" effort is accepting donations for the second-grade class project. Some of the students' work will remain on display near the Mercantile Dining & Provision inside Union Station for the next few weeks.

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