Early Friday morning, three Summit High School seniors arrived in Denver for their first visit to the state Capitol.
Joel Gomez, Isidra Luna and Sebastian Ramos were recognized for their academic achievements by the legislature as first-generation college students in Summit’s Pre-Collegiate Development Program. Molly Griffith, the program’s coordinator, accompanied them.
Ramos, 18, said he’s been working hard in school and it seems to be paying back.
“I don’t know where would I be if it wasn’t for Molly” and the program, he said. The Silverthorne resident said he carries the Pre-Collegiate label with pride.
The high schoolers visit was planned for College Friday, a celebration of postsecondary education. They saw representatives wearing their school memorabilia. They met with Rep. Millie Hamner, a former Summit superintendent. And they watched Gov. Hickenlooper sign a bill.
“It was a real eye opener for them because they got to see firsthand how a bill becomes law,” Hamner said Saturday.
Joel Gomez, 17, said in his culture, dreams sometimes fade and turn grey as people grow up. The Silverthorne resident said he’s looking forward to living a life full of color.
“Hopefully with college I can do what I like,” he said Thursday, adding that he plans to study mechanical engineering at Utah State University.
Summit’s Pre-Collegiate program is one of many around the state created to fight the Colorado Paradox.
The paradox refers to the drastic difference in education rankings between native or non-native Coloradans. According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the state ranks second in the nation in adults with an associate’s degree or higher, but it drops to 46th when considering only adults born in Colorado.
Highly educated adults move to the state, distorting reality for the rest of the population. Colorado also ranks near the bottom in state higher-education funding.
Officials worry about how these statistics impact Colorado’s students and the state’s economy.
According to the state Department of Higher Education, 51 percent of Colorado’s jobs require postsecondary education from technical colleges, community colleges and four-year universities. That number is expected to grow to 74 percent by 2020, six years from now.
Now in its ninth year, College Friday is a program of the department’s “College In Colorado” initiative, created to draw attention to the need for students to prepare for postsecondary education.
At Summit High School, staff members created a scavenger hunt for College Friday with information about their alma maters, and students matched teachers with their colleges.
Molly Griffith said the hunt was meant to get students thinking about college and how the adults in their lives came from different backgrounds.
Griffith is the coordinator for the Pre-Collegiate program, which helps and encourages low-income, first-generation college students as they prepare to achieve goals of graduating high school and continuing with post-secondary education.
The Summit Foundation, Vail Resorts ECHO, Colorado Mountain College and the University of Colorado at Boulder support the program.
The program offers opportunities to students and parents in a variety of ways: college tours and fairs around the state, after-school tutoring, community mentors, parent meetings about post-secondary options, day- and overnight-summer programs at Colorado Mountain College and the University of Colorado at Boulder, test prep, assistance writing college essays, guidance through college applications and the financial aid process, and Spanish/English bilingual support.
Ramos, who moved to Summit from Chile two years ago, said people here have helped him figure out the American higher education system and supported him through the application process.
“Down there you’re on your own with your family trying to figure it out,” he said.
Students in grades seven through 12 are eligible for Pre-Collegiate if they would be first-generation college students (neither parent graduated from a four-year institution), maintain a 2.0 GPA, are academically motivated and want to continue education after high school.
Griffith said Pre-Collegiate is one of many programs (GEAR UP, TRiO, College In Colorado) that help districts across the state deliver on the Colorado Promise — to close achievement gaps, halve the dropout rate and to double the number of certificates and degrees earned by Colorado students.
Last week was full of excitement for many Summit County seniors. Monday was scholarship night, where 87 seniors found out how much money they received from local donors and foundations.
“I’ve never seen a community support their students like the Summit community does,” Griffith said.
Herson Olivares, 18, said he was amazed and astonished that all those people and charities were willing to give money to those who really need it.
The Dillon Valley resident, who will attend the University of Colorado in Denver as a pre-med student, said scholarship night showed him how “we all, as a community, we help each other little by little.”
In the fifth year of the Pre-Collegiate program, its 22 seniors set a new record. For the first time, Griffith said, every senior received a scholarship.
It was also the first year one of the Pre-Collegiate students, Max Ortiz, received the four-year Summit Foundation scholarship.
“No matter how good your grades are, no matter how hard you work, I think financial limitations are what keep students from going where they want to go,” Griffith said, calling this landmark a huge success for the program and boost for the students.
Many of her students were waiting for scholarship night before they could make college decisions.
“This year even more than other years,” she said, it was the “final piece of the puzzle.”
Ramos said without the money he received at scholarship night he would’ve been stressed paying loans. He said he feels blessed to live in Summit and relieved that people believe in him.
“I just want to keep going, keep studying hard,” said the future University of Northern Colorado student who plans to go to medical school. “Someday in the future I’ll come back here and pay them back with my knowledge.”
Joel Gomez, 17, said his parents have been stressed about college.
“They’re really worried about how much it’s going to cost,” he said. After scholarship night, he said he was more relaxed.
“I know I can do it,” he said. “It’s possible. It’s doable.”
Isidra Luna, 18, of Silverthorne, said she is still nervous about paying for school because the money she received doesn’t cover tuition.
She echoed her classmates sentiments about feeling grateful to live in Summit.
“They gave so much money out,” said the Silverthorne resident who plans to study exercise science at Colorado Mesa University, “and it’s really a help to all of us here at Pre-Collegiate.”
Erica Ewald, the culinary teacher at Summit High School, took 11 of her students to Denver Friday, April 11, for a state food events competition.
The Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a national career and technical student organization in family and consumer science classes, held its state competition at Johnson and Wales University.
Six more of Ewald’s students attended the organization’s state conference April 3, 4 and 5 at Denver Technological Center.
She said the students spent hundreds of hours preparing for the event.
One student repurposed old wedding dresses to create new ones. Others honed their knife skills, modified recipes and practiced other cooking techniques for the food events.
Ewald said Summit High students brought home six silver medals, four second-place golds and six first-place golds (the gold medals are ranked to determine scholarship amounts).
Seven students qualified to go to the national competition this summer in San Antonio, Texas, and many won scholarships to attend the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder.
And out of 2,600 Colorado students who are part of the organization, one Summit student now holds one of 13 spots on the executive council. As part of the council, she will run the organization, planning conferences and workshops, visiting schools, building up programs and offering training.
Sierra Altman - Cake Design - First-Place Gold and $8,000 Escoffier scholarship
Amaney Badwan - Recycle & Redesign - Silver
Ania Budzynski - Interior Design - Silver
Antoinette Garcia - Gourmet Savory - Silver and $1,000 Escoffier scholarship
Garrett Giles - Gourmet Savory - Silver and $1,000 Escoffier scholarship
Sophia Kim - Gourmet Sweet - Silver and $1,000 Escoffier scholarship
Molly Krugman - Thematic Table Design - Silver and $1,000 Escoffier scholarship
Matt Krugman - Gourmet Sweet - Second-Place Gold and $6,000 Escoffier scholarship
Kalee Hollingsworth - Cake Design - $6,000 Escoffier scholarship
Victoria Penegor - Recycle & Redesign - First-Place Gold and $3,000 renewable scholarship to FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing) and National Qualifier
Ally Pothier- National Programs in Action - First-Place Gold and National Qualifier
Nathan Quandt - Knife Skills - $6,000 Escoffier scholarship
Kaitlin Wallace - Fashion Construction - Second-Place Gold and National Qualifier
Brian Acosta, Dominick DiLallo, Haley Woodford - Culinary Star Team - First-Place Gold and $1,000 scholarship to Johnson & Wales University, $2,000 scholarship to CIA (Culinary Institute of America), $8,000 scholarship to Escoffier and National Qualifier
State Officer - Kalee Hollingsworth - Vice President of Recognition - National Qualifier