A teacher in Broken Bow, Nebraska, at only 13, Emily Griffith became convinced that the children she taught there and later in Denver’s poorest neighborhoods would never do well until their parents acquired a basic education.
In 1915 she appealed to the Denver School Board for permission to open a revolutionary school that would provide a free education to any adult who needed a second chance. September 9, 1916, was the opening day of the world’s first school geared to provide basic adult education and training in marketable skills. Griffith believed that everyone deserved an education regardless of age, race, gender or background. Griffith chose the name Opportunity School and hoped that 200 adults would enroll during that first semester. Instead, 2,389 signed up for classes. The school was later renamed the Emily Griffith Opportunity School, and Emily’s concept became world-renowned and much emulated. In June 2011, Emily Griffith Opportunity School officially changed its name to Emily Griffith Technical College. It is also affiliated with DPS as an alternative high school.
When Griffith retired in 1933, she moved to Pinecliff to live with her sister. On June 18, 1947 the two women were found murdered. The crime was never solved. In 1976, Griffith was honored with a stained -glass window portrait in the Colorado State Capitol.