“Today has been eye-opening, especially to how colleges really want us to pursue college,” said Alicia Martinez, a senior at Bruce Randolph School in north Denver.
On Jan. 31, Martinez participated in the second annual “Road to CSU” event, which included more than a dozen interactive, co-facilitated sessions focused on preparing students for standardized testing, navigating financial aid and the application process, acclimating to college culture, identifying personal strengths and values, and considering post-college career pathways.
“They took time out of their day just to make us see all the pathways that could be possible for us,” Martinez said.
After a successful first year of the program in 2019, which was open only to 9th-graders – fewer than 100 students, BRS faculty and staff expressed interest in expanding the program to get more students excited about the prospect of college while equipping them with tools, insights, and resources to get there. This year, all of the school’s more than 750 students, Grades 6-12, participated.
“The ‘Road to CSU’ event highlights the benefits of creating a college-going culture early on a student’s educational journey,” said Lucia Delgado, director of CSU College Access programs.
Delgado and her team at the CSU Access Center coordinated the event in partnership with Bruce Randolph School faculty and staff, CSU Alliance Partnership, CSU Bookstore, CSU Division of Enrollment and Access, CSU Office of Admissions, CSU Pueblo Admissions, CSU System, Denver Scholarship Foundation, and INSPiRE.
“We were able to come together in partnership to provide students with a day filled with learning and high impact activities that left the students excited for college and their futures,” said Delgado.
In an effort to make the event a CSU System-wide effort, CSU Pueblo – a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution enrolling more than 4,000 students – also joined the 2020 lineup, and sent an Admissions representative to provide an overview of the institution’s degree programs and admission requirements.
“Road to CSU” is one of numerous programs stemming from the University’s established partnership with BRS, and also serves as an example of the student-centered programs that will be hosted at the future Spur campus at the National Western Center.
CSU System is actively engaging schools, nonprofits, and businesses in the neighborhoods surrounding the new three-building campus to create community-focused programming that can move in when it opens in 2022.
Learning for life
Expanding “Road to CSU” to include activities for BRS middle school students also allowed the CSU System campuses and teachers to grow the event’s impact and engagement.
“[Today’s program] is extremely, extremely important – especially for these kids in 8th grade,” said BRS student-teacher Sara Bacon-Maldonado, who teaches 6th– and 8th-grade language arts.
Bacon-Maldonado attended John F. Kennedy High School in southwest Denver and is currently completing a master’s program at the University of Denver.
“A lot of these kids are going to be first-generation students, so maybe they don’t see the resources that are available for them yet,” she said. “I think it’s important – especially as a college student now – that we’re giving them these ideas, like, ‘You can do it; even though none of your family has done it, you can.’”
BRS English teacher and head basketball coach Joel Lommasson agreed.
“It’s really valuable just to get our students processing and thinking about all these different facets of college-going life,” he said, noting that his junior-level students often are unaware of financial aid programs like FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
“It’s good for [students] to come in for an entire day and process college,” he said. “To be able to go really in-depth is pretty significant.”
During the “Identity Wheel” activity, Alicia Martinez reflected on the values and roles of personal identity in a college setting: “In college, you’re really able to expand and choose what you want to be.”
Martinez intends to study nursing at Metropolitan State University of Denver and currently is completing a concurrent enrollment course at Colorado Early College, securing her senior license before graduating in the spring.
“I’ll be one step ahead, so I can really specialize in what kind of nursing I want to do. I want to stay in Colorado.”
About Spur: CSU System at the National Western Center
Coming in 2022: CSU System will open Spur, where innovative ideas and unforgettable experiences come to life at the National Western Center. Spur’s three buildings at the center of the landmark project in north Denver will ignite and fuel new ideas around water, food, and health and their impact on our lives and our world. Spur is where learning is open and accessible to all. Where researchers tackle the world’s most pressing problems around water, food, and health. Where art and culture challenge and surround you. Where rural and urban, local and global intersect. Learn more at csuspur.edu.
About Bruce Randolph School
Bruce Randolph School is located in north Denver and serves approximately 760 students, Grades 6-12. Bruce Randolph Middle School is a community of learners, with a core belief that the road to college starts in sixth grade by providing students a rigorous curriculum, a safe and supported learning environment, and a community that values each student. Bruce Randolph High School is a neighborhood high school with a focus on community and academic achievement, with a mission to graduate 100-percent of seniors prepared to succeed without remediation in a four-year college or university. For more information, visit randolph.dpsk12.org.
About the CSU Access Center
The Access Center at Colorado State University develops the talents of those who have been historically underrepresented in postsecondary education (first-generation, low-income, ethnically and racially diverse, and non-traditionally aged). By utilizing effective practices, the Access Center provides quality services to communities, individuals, and institutions resulting in student success and exemplary programs guided by an ethic of community and project accountability. Learn more at accesscenter.colostate.edu.