CSU’s partnerships with local school districts reach into classrooms, athletics and beyond

Volunteers pack backpacks during the School is Cool day.
Nearly 11,000 people came to Canvas Stadium for the first Canvas Community Classic.
Nearly 11,000 people came to Canvas Stadium for the first Canvas Community Classic.

Colorado State University had 439 teacher candidates in Northern Colorado schools from both undergraduate and graduate programs during the 2021-22 academic year, showing the connections between CSU and local school districts.

Beyond CSU’s Center for Educator Preparation in the School of Education, which provides teacher and principal licensure, there are many other programs that show partnership among CSU, the Poudre School District and the Thompson School District.

It’s a deep partnership,” said Nick Peterson, PSD’s community and business development coordinator. “It’s almost too big for any one person to have a complete picture of because it’s happening through different threads on this tapestry.”

These associations run a gamut of efforts: fourth-graders attending CSU women’s basketball games; poetry contests; the School is Cool program (included photo) that distributes backpacks and school supplies to local schools for children in need; high school students touring CSU’s campus; the Climate Leadership Summit; education days; Eco Week; Campus Connections; CSU Middle School Day; the Nov. 25 CSU Education Day football game against New Mexico; internship programs; and the Canvas Community Classic, among others.

“They did a great job. The Canvas Community Classic was a huge success,” Peterson said of the Sept. 30 event that brought hundreds of local parents, players, band members and other students on CSU’s campus to watch Fort Collins’ four high school football teams play. “I know they’re going to continue with this partnership. And they’re looking at maybe an event in the winter in Moby (Arena).”

One of the older collaborations is the School is Cool program, which began in 1992. Since then, it has provided more than 53,000 children with essential school supplies. The program reached more than 2,600 students last year.

“It’s important, so students can have backpacks on Day One, rather than feeling stigmatized or unprepared for school, and it gets them a positive start,” Peterson said. “That’s a huge thing that CSU does for us.”

The partnerships go both ways, as CSU educators learn what is happening in TSD, PSD and other districts in real time.

“That’s a critical thing, especially when universities can have a reputation of an ivory tower,” said Ann Sebald, co-director of Center for Educator Preparation. “We don’t. We can’t. Because we are collective. We are collaborators in this work.”

Peterson said he hopes to catalog and expand the partnerships involving PSD, TSD and other area school districts with CSU.

“It’s strong and getting stronger,” Peterson said. “And it’s getting stronger because we have really good collaboration and we have really good people working together who are making this a priority.”

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.