Poudre Think Tank

Student Advisory Group

The Poudre Think Tank (PTT) is an advisory group of Poudre School District high school students that work to address issues or decisions within their district. In collaboration with the CPD, the Poudre Think Tank not only represents the student voice for the district but serves as a conduit to the students. They engage their fellow students in conversations about different problems, often working alongside the CPD’s trained college student facilitators. Over ten years of partnership, the CPD and the Think Tank have worked together on several topics, including childhood obesity, bullying, the Districts Ends Policy, marijuana, mental health, testing, and substance abuse.

The PTT is open to any PSD student who would like to make a difference in their local community. PTT students meet bi-weekly throughout the school year at Fort Collins High School (and pizza is provided). We encourage teachers to recommend outstanding students to be a part of the PTT.

Case Study

In the spring of 2018, PTT and CPD students worked together to develop a forum on substance abuse. The forums took place at four high schools across Poudre School District, engaging 270 students in the conversation. In each forum, students were given a sheet that listed three approaches to “solve” the problem of substance abuse. The conversation allowed students to talk about substance abuse by considering potential actions related to:

  • Keeping people safe
  • Addressing conditions that foster substance abuse
  • Upholding individual freedom

Following the forum, students were asked to complete an anonymous survey. From the survey results, we discovered that 85% of the students engaged agree that substance abuse is an important issue facing PSD. They also suggested three actions they think Poudre School District staff, teachers, counselors, and/or students should take to address substance abuse. From those ideas, the CPD created a data visualization of all the ideas.

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Based on what was discussed during the forums, these are the recommendations that PSD students would like the district and community to consider:

  1. Increasing the number of opportunities for students to talk about substance abuse with their peers, teachers, and counselors.
  2. Consistently starting substance abuse education early on.
  3. Moving away from an abstinence-only curriculum and towards a use versus abuse approach.
  4. Ensuring that education materials include the latest research about the immediate and long-term effects of substance use, especially for e-cigarettes.
  5. Creating greater consistency in health curriculum across different teachers.
  6. Utilizing consequences that promote rehabilitation.
  7. Widely promoting resources for recovery that are available within the school and external community.


The PTT was originally formed after students that were participating with the student strand the Colorado Association of School Board Annual Meeting in Colorado Springs would meet annually with the PSD School Board. It was decided it would be useful for the two groups to meet more often, so the Think Tank was formed, in part to represent the student voice for the board and superintendent. They worked with Fort Collins High School teacher Elaine Holmes as their sponsor.

Beginning with the CPD forums related to the potential grade configuration changes in PSD in 2007, Think Tank students were often participants at CPD events. In February of 2008, twelve students were trained as facilitators during an all-day CPD workshop. Additional trainings have been held every couple of years for new cohort of students.


In the fall of 2009, CPD Director Dr. Carcasson, Think Tank organizer Elaine Holmes, and several of the students presented at the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) meeting in Colorado Springs on their deliberative engagement model. At the time, they were the only student group that had ever been asked to present at the conference. In 2010, the students and Carcasson designed another interactive process for the CASB conference, as the students ran a full session of the student strand at the conference, another first for an individual student group. The Poudre School District was awarded the 2011 Commissioner’s Choice Award for Engaging Students as Leaders by Governor Hickenlooper, in large part to the work of the PSD Think Tank. In 2018, CPD Managing Director Kalie McMonagle, Elaine Holmes, and a group of CPD and Think Tank students presented at the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation conference on the substance abuse project completed earlier that year.