ROBERT ALLEN
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Summit County, Colorado

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May 15, 2009
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Program aims for first-gen college students

SUMMIT COUNTY " A program coming to Summit School District could ultimately put diplomas in the hands of local students who today have little or no expectation of enrolling in college.

The Pre-Collegiate Program of the Summit kicks off this summer to attract about 40 minority, low-income or first-generation college students.

Students from seventh through 12th grades will have an opportunity to get on a year-round, college-bound track that involves mentors, campus visits, seminars and more to motivate and prepare them for higher education.

"It's designed for middle-of-the-road students ... those who do well enough to get by, those who tend to fall through the cracks," said Chris Pacheco, director of pre-college outreach at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

A "C" average is among minimum requirements.

Colorado Mountain College and CU Boulder are both to participate in the program, which appears to have proven successful at the CMC Roaring Fork Campus and Roaring Fork School District.

The Summit Foundation has committed $50,000 annually for the first three years to get the local program running.

Lee Zimmerman, the foundation's executive director, said the foundation was looking at ways to be more proactive in the community when the opportunity was discovered.

Summit superintendent Millie Hamner, a trustee on the foundation's board, said planning for the pre-collegiate program has been under way for about six months.

Barriers to the targeted group of students' college enrollment includes undocumented status, economic situations and parents' lack of understanding, according to the program proposal.

Hamner said there's hope that the program will inspire not only individual students, but their siblings and parents "to start shifting the future for the entire family structure."

The program's goals will include finding scholarship money for the students.

Pacheco said the CU pre-collegiate program offers exclusive scholarships of $1,500 per year, renewable for up to four years.

Hamner said the district is recruiting a coordinator to work with the students in finding a variety of scholarship opportunities. The coordinator is to also work with the colleges to organize the program locally.

The program at Roaring Fork schools began about eight years ago.

"They were seeing a large Latino drop-out rate," Pacheco said, adding that the district found benefits to the entire student population.

After the first summer, the program caught on well among students.

"We find that the students become our best recruiters," he said.

The CU Boulder pre-collegiate program began in 1983. He said some 98 percent of the program's seniors have continued into higher education, with the average senior paying about 90 percent of college tuition through scholarships and grants.

Part of the intent behind starting with seventh-graders is to get them improving their grade-point averages as early as possible. For older students, the opportunities through CMC can get them associate degrees and on track for further higher education, Pacheco said.

Dave Askeland, division director at CMC Summit, said the college already offers pathways for getting students ready for college. About 20 to 25 percent of Summit High School students take CMC classes.

CMC also works with the district through family literacy programs intended to improve literacy, life skills and language.

Summit schools are working to recruit students from grades seven, nine, 10 and 11 to begin the program. Summit Prevention Alliance and Family and Intercultural Resource Center are helping in an advisory capacity, Hamner said.

Though the Summit Foundation is providing the initial revenue " and funding could continue beyond three years " donations will likely be needed to sustain the pre-collegiate program.

For more information, contact Julie McCluskie at (970) 668-3011.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated May 15, 2009 12:23AM Published May 15, 2009 12:23AM Copyright 2009 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.