The smell of a dozen pizzas fills a classroom in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, while yellow school buses sit parked outside the windows. Students from Harris, Laurel, and Putnam elementary schools amble by, all wearing the same black Colorado State University t-shirt.
Some hang onto taller Colorado State University students, who all wear the same shirts, as if they’re family.
The youngsters are on their way to watch a spectacular digital dome show in the theater upstairs. They jog down a glass-walled hallway, several languages buzzing in the air. Most of them are laughing.
After the show, though, they will have to exchange some hard goodbyes.
As College of Natural Sciences students work through finals and prepare to put the academic year behind them, some of them have also bid adieu to the Triunfo (Triumph) Mentoring Program, a capstone of their student experience. Started in 1990, Triunfo is a partnership between the CNS’s Education and Outreach Center and Colorado State University’s El Centro student-support program. Each year, it pairs Colorado State student mentors with primarily underserved K-12 students, often paying to bus the mentees to tutoring sessions. The partnerships last an entire academic year, and they produce memorable bonds – and new lessons for all involved.
This year, 70 K-5 students were mentored by 70 college student volunteers.
According to Stephanie Herrera, a sophomore biochemistry major and Triunfo tutor, the mentorship is crucial to young students because it teaches them about their own potential. Many will be the first in their families to view college as an option. “They can see themselves in their mentors,” she says. That connection helps demonstrate that someone has walked their path before them, and that they may follow.
The event at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery was essentially the exclamation mark at the end of these elementary and college students’ Triunfo story. From here, the CSU students will graduate or head into summer ready for another year. The elementary students will continue their studies emboldened by the trust placed in them by their older student partners and, hopefully, better equipped for success even when the deck is stacked against them.
Everyone involved will have been shaped by the experience.