Roaring Fork School District celebrates 20 years of PreCollegiate success

The Roaring Fork schools PreCollegiate program class of 2024 during a recent visit to the University of Colorado Boulder.
Roaring Fork School District/Courtesy

The Roaring Fork School District PreCollegiate Program is celebrating its 20th anniversary, marking two decades of assisting first-generation students in their pursuit of post-secondary education.

The program, which began in the 2003-04 school year, was initially modeled after the pre-collegiate development programs from the University of Colorado system. With strong partnerships over the years, including ties to the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado Mountain College, the Roaring Fork School District, and the Aspen Community Foundation, the program has seen significant growth.

“In just 20 years, nearly all our students have completed high school,”PreCollegiate Program Executive Director David Smith said.”Especially in the past decade, we’ve celebrated a 100% high school completion rate.”

Smith’s pride is evident when discussing the college matriculation rates. The program reports 98 to 99% of its students moving on to post-secondary programs after high school.

This impressive record can be attributed to the program’s expansion. With the help of a grant in 2015, the PreCollegiate Program grew its target from a handful to 420 students spanning grades 7 through 12. From starting with a single staff member, they now boast a team of five full-time professionals.

Adeline Nelson, a recent Glenwood Springs High School graduate of the Class of 2023, credits the program for her successful transition to Colorado State. 

“Without the guidance and support from this program, I wouldn’t have been as confident in my journey to higher education,” Nelson said.

Challenges have surfaced over the years, including the need to adjust methods and curriculum to meet changing times. The program placed a keen focus on soft skill development and intensive college advising, ensuring students were not only academically prepared but also personally ready for college life. Even the COVID-19 pandemic, while presenting hurdles, didn’t stop the program’s momentum.

Cristina Garcia Veleta, another Glenwood Springs High School Class of 2023 alumna, shared her experience during these challenging times. 

“The pandemic made everything uncertain, but the program kept us grounded, always steering us towards our goals,” Veleta said.

Operating similarly to a nonprofit, the program continually fundraises and writes grants to sustain its mission. Their primary goal is to guide students towards various post-secondary opportunities, not just traditional four-year college programs.

As the program looks ahead, its future direction seems promising. Smith shared that as they celebrate their 20th anniversary, they’re undertaking another strategic planning process. This includes expanding its post-secondary partnerships and possibly looking out-of-state, where there’s increasing interest from students.

With about 80% of its students staying in-state and attending renowned Colorado institutions such as Colorado Mesa, Boulder, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Colorado State University and Colorado Mountain College, the program’s impact on the state’s higher education landscape is undeniable. Yet, there’s excitement in potentially expanding horizons further.

For now, as they reflect on 20 years of success and growth, the Roaring Fork School District PreCollegiate Program is a testament to the power of community support and dedication in shaping the futures of first-generation students.

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