High school students get a taste of life in college | PostIndependent.com

High school students get a taste of life in college

Reynis Vazquez
Post Independent Intern
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

BOULDER, Colorado – A group of 100 high school students from the Roaring Fork Valley and Summit County experienced life on a large college campus for two weeks at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

They participated in the Pre-Collegiate Program, which aims to give students – who will be the first generation in their family to graduate from college – the tools they need to succeed.

The Roaring Fork School District/Summit Pre-Collegiate Summer Camp is funded almost entirely by the University of Colorado at Boulder. Families of the students pay only $40 for the entire stay.

The two-week program, held June 19 to July 1, was structured to prepare students for the rigors of college. They attended math, science, English and ethnic studies classes in buildings across campus. Students stayed in a dormitory to better experience college life.

“The classes were challenging in a good way because they were helping you get ready for college,” said Ivan Sarabia, 16, of Glenwood Springs.

“I learned how to handle more college-level work. I really liked that it was challenging and we got to meet new people and it was in a larger campus than at home.” said Bryan Menjivar, 16, of Basalt.

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Leslie Emerson, director of the Roaring Fork School District Pre-Collegiate Program, and Molly Griffith, director of the Summit County Pre-Collegiate Program, accompanied the students for the duration of the program.

“What we are hoping is students gain some experience of what it is like to live on a college campus and take college-level courses, so they have a better opportunity to apply for college and so they enter college better prepared,” said Emerson.

The program exposes the students to rigorous academic classes and helps them get ahead in their high school studies.

“This is a very good program. It’s helping our community get to college and it was important for me to help,” said Dulce Saenz, a graduate from the University of Denver and a peer counselor at the program for three summers.

“I just hope the students really appreciate and take advantage of the opportunity, because not a lot of schools offer pre-collegiate programs in general and much less a program for first-generation students,” said Saenz.

Pat Salas, an English teacher at the program for eight summers, said, “These are the most phenomenal people I’ve worked with. It’s magical, it’s demanding, it creates focus, it develops camaraderie. It’s the magic that happens when you work with very diverse people. Your energy and drive is exponentially increased just by being around others with the same drive.”

Salas enjoys teaching the students in the program.

“I love the group and I will continue teaching until they kick me out. These are the brains and hearts of tomorrow’s leaders,” he said.

Luisana Pacheco, a former student of the pre-collegiate program and a current student at the University of New Mexico, is a peer counselor at the program for the first time this summer.

“I really like sharing with all the students. They all have different, awesome personalities,” she said.

The program included students from the public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Summit County High School.

Students who will be high school juniors this fall attended classes and presentations each day on the various schools and courses available at the University of Colorado, such as education, medicine and law.

“The presentations helped a lot in choosing careers,” said Menjivar. Students learned more about what careers their interests could lead to in college.

Students entering 12th grade attended seminars regarding financial aid, the college admission process and choosing college classes.

All students also attended lectures aimed to motivate them even further.

“The people around you inspire you,” said Evelyn Dominguez, a student at Basalt High School.

“This program just looks really good when you put it on your resume. It shows that you’re hardworking and stayed in the program,” said Dominguez.

Editor’s note: Reynis Vazquez, a Post Independent intern and student at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, also attended the Pre-Collegiate Program session at the University of Colorado.