“Road to CSU” prepares Denver freshmen for college, life beyond high school

“I dream of being a doctor, because I want to help people,” said Keyanna, 15, one of 90 high school freshmen who participated in the inaugural “Road to CSU” event at Bruce Randolph School in north Denver on Jan. 14.

Months prior, teams from Colorado State University and the school visioned this day as a way to equip high school students with tools and resources to navigate pathways to higher education well before graduation.

“I’m really excited about this day,” said Roland Shaw, assistant principal of Bruce Randolph School. “For that 30 to 40 percent [of students] who aren’t sure yet if college is in their future, this day can help demystify college in a lot of ways.”

All of the school’s freshmen participated in the event and were challenged to set goals around grades, attendance, community service, and extracurricular activities. As an ongoing component of the event, teachers will check in to see how their students’ commitments are progressing, assisting and supporting each student’s progress as needed.

“The goal of the event is to help high school freshmen, most of whom will be the first ones in their families to pursue a higher education degree, gain an early awareness around post-secondary options and specifically the opportunities at CSU,” said Director of CSU College Access Programs Lucia Delgado.

“It’s critical to reach the students as freshmen so they are informed of the admission requirements for four-year universities across the state.”

Paving ways to college, careers

The full-day experience included five distinct activities focused on college and career readiness.

Staff from CSU’s Access Center, part of the Division of Enrollment & Access, led three of the five activities:

  • College Jeopardy, a gamified review of postsecondary options – trade schools, community colleges, four-year universities – and the requisite and recommended elements for college applications: transcripts, volunteering and community service, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, etc.
  • Setting the Right Course as a Freshmen, an interactive card game to help students identify the courses they’ll need to get into college.
  • Overcoming Obstacles to College, which improves students’ understanding of how money, transportation, education, friends, and family can stand in the way of success while identifying strategies for overcoming potential barriers.

“It was such a highlight to hear the students express their sentiments of appreciation and new level of understanding for achieving their higher education goals,” said Delgado.

Bruce Randolph School faculty walked students through an Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP), a required Denver Public Schools process to guide students and families through career, academic, and postsecondary opportunities.

Planting seeds, inspiring legacies

Another “Road to CSU” activity, “My Family, My Dreams, Our Legacy,” was led by Jesse Ramirez, executive director and founder of INSPiRE, a Denver-based nonprofit on a mission “to ignite, train, and invest in youth to become Change Agents in their schools, families, and communities.”

“I actually grew up in this neighborhood where Bruce Randolph is,” said Ramirez, who is also a CSU alumnus. “Coming from a low-income family as a first-generation Mexican-American in this country, I always felt an obligation and responsibility to give back to future generations and other students like myself, so starting INSPiRE was a natural professional move to give back in my own way and really build a program around all the things I wish I would have had when I was in high school.”

Ramirez began the activity by reciting a poem he wrote called “I Inspire,” to help establish credibility with the students and to show that he’s aware of their challenges, that he’s lived through many of the same obstacles.

Stanzas from “I Inspire” by Jesse Ramirez

I Inspire my neighborhood to know we are more than the smell of a dog food factory, contaminated lands, and far too many broken dreams.

I Inspire young people to own their greatness, to chase their dreams, to recognize their obstacles as gifts, and know that there are endless possibilities for a brighter future. […]

I Inspire students who have been told that they aren’t smart enough or rich enough or from the right ethnic background, that with grit and determination they too can go to a university like Colorado State and graduate. […]

I Inspire parents to listen their kids’ dreams, to try to understand them, to love them unconditionally even if they don’t agree with them and for them not to be afraid to let you leave home in search of them.

I Inspire because I was told by a teacher, at the age of 14, that she didn’t care if I lived or died. It was the thought of death which motivated me to walk across three graduation stages. […]

I Inspire communities where young people know that they are loved, that they are talented, and that they have gifts and stories that need to be shared with the world.

Ramirez then directed the conversation to the students, asking them to think about their own families, about what each of their parents and siblings do for work, and why they do it.

Zaid Nuñez-Valdez, 14, replied, “[Our families] put the hard work in for us, for our futures.”

Ramirez closed his activity in much the same way the “Road to CSU” event finished – with a few of words of encouragement.

“Every time you dream a dream out loud, you’re planting a seed. Go plant that seed and allow your seeds to grow. Build a legacy for yourself and your family.”


Many departments and teams contributed to this event: The Access CenterOffice of AdmissionsAlliance PartnershipCSU BookstoreDivision of Enrollment and Access; CSU System.

Colorado State University Campus at the National Western Center

Colorado State University has made a long-term commitment to the future National Western Center and its surrounding communities in north Denver.

The CSU Campus at the National Western Center will focus on research and educational programming in the areas of food, water, health, energy and the environment within its three buildings: the CSU Water Building, CSU Animal Health Complex, and CSU Food and Agriculture Center. What’s inside the buildings will bring together the brightest minds, inspire the next generation, and address global challenges.

The University is currently working to engage with the community and to partner with local schools, nonprofits, and businesses to create impactful research, collaboration, and year-round programming to this unique project.

For additional information, visit nwc.colostate.edu.