Summit School District’s precollegiate program has helped hundreds of students be the first in their family to go to college
If you’re the first member of your family on your way to college, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about the process: Things like what electives to take in high school, how to prepare for entrance exams, how to fill out college applications or what to look for in a school when visiting their campus.
Aside from that, there is often a narrower road to follow for these first-generation students if they want to go to college, given they often lack of legacy connections or advice from parents who did not go to college themselves.
To help guide first-generation students along the right path to college, Summit School District instituted a precollegiate development program 10 years ago.
The program provides tutoring, mentoring, summer collegiate programs, college counseling and other resources to students from sixth through 12th grade looking to be the first in their family to get into post-secondary education.
The program advances the district’s goal of creating a college-going culture by helping remove barriers that commonly deter students and families from getting to the next level of academic achievement.
In the past 10 years, the program has assisted 450 students with support services, and over 200 students have graduated from the precollegiate program. The program currently works with 220 students in the district, and has tripled in size since its inception.
One of precollegiate’s glowing success stories is Sebastian Ramos, a 2014 Summit High graduate originally from Santiago, Chile, who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 17. Ramos became the first in his family to go on to college, attending the University of Northern Colorado. There, he became a Latinx student leader and mentor while studying biology and pre-med.
Ramos currently serves in Americorps as part of Boulder County ‘s I Have a Dream Foundation, helping low-income students achieve their own dreams of graduating high school and going to college. Next year, he will be attending the Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine with the goal of becoming a general physician serving disadvantaged communities.
Ramos said that the precollegiate program helped him break out of the loneliness he initially experienced coming to the U.S. with limited English and no established foundation.
“Early in my American education journey, which started in Denver, I felt that I could sense the limitations I had compared to my peers, and it drove educators and peers away from me, and I really felt like I was on the sidelines,” Ramos said. “The moment I joined the Summit precollegiate program marked the beginning of my educational success. It gave me tools to succeed academically and emotionally, and the desire to build community through leadership and service.”
Brenda Ornelas is about to graduate from Summit High and enroll at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, with the goal of becoming a math teacher. Ornelas said she saw a lack of Hispanic representation in teachers she had in subjects like math, and wants to be that academic representation along with being the first person in her family to go to college.
Ornelas said that her parents are from Mexico and never went to college, and did not know how to help with things like filling out college applications or filing Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms.
Aside from that, the ambition of college was not something familiar to Ornelas or her family, and the precollegiate program opened her eyes to a future that didn’t involve manual or service labor. She said she would have struggled without the guidance the precollegiate program offered.
“Precollegiate generates a whole new group of people going into future who want to do more than what’s more expected of them,” Ornelas said. “It definitely gave a whole different future to a lot of people like me who thought their future was going to be housekeeping, construction or the general workforce.”
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