Supporters celebrate pre-collegiate grads in Breckenridge |

Supporters celebrate pre-collegiate grads in Breckenridge

Caddie Nath
summit daily news
Special to the Daily/Vail Resorts Echo

BRECKENRIDGE – When he started high school, Einar Alejandro Rivera, who goes by Alejandro, didn’t think he would go to college. No one in his family ever had.

Then, when he was 15, he joined the pre-collegiate program at Summit High School and met coordinator Molly Griffith.

Together, Griffith and Alejandro’s mother convinced him he not only could, but should continue his education and gave him the tools to do so.

“I was thinking about how much money it’s going to be, if it was going to be a lot, if I could make it, what about if I didn’t,” Alejandro recalls. “And then my mom told me that I should go to college.”

On May 26, Alejandro’s mother cried as she watched her son accept his high school diploma with an invitation and three scholarships to start his college career at Colorado Mountain College in the fall.

Friday, Summit School District administrators and program sponsors Vail Resorts, The Summit Foundation and Colorado Mountain College celebrated Alejandro and this year’s 27 other pre-collegiate graduates and their families with a luncheon at One Ski Hill Place in Breckenridge.

The event was an opportunity for administrators and sponsors of the program to congratulate the students, who comprise the largest pre-collegiate graduating class since the program’s inception four years ago, and to give each of them welcome gifts from the colleges they will be attending.

“We’re excited for all of you and your futures,” Keystone Resort executive John Buhler said at the lunch.

The pre-collegiate program now includes more than 100 students – all of them on track to be the first in their families to get a higher education – at Summit Middle and High schools, providing them with the guidance and support they need to land a post-secondary education.

“The pre-collegiate program just portrays hope for all these kids that don’t know about going to college and just don’t know where to start,” said recent graduate Rachel Baumgardner, 18, who will attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix in the fall. “The whole program is incredible for helping us. I never doubted that I’d go to college, but for a lot of people it’s a question from when they’re little.”

An estimated 98 percent of students who stick with the pre-collegiate program through graduation go on to some kind of post-secondary training. This year’s Summit High School grads took it one step further and together secured 70 scholarships as well.

The pre-collegiate program was originally a product of the University of Colorado at Boulder. When Summit Foundation representatives noticed a gap in scholarship applications among first-generation college-bound students locally, they brought the program to Summit County.

Work with students begins in seventh grade and continues through high school. Pre-collegiate students receive community mentoring, tutoring, and opportunities to visit colleges and attend leadership conferences. They also get help with ACT and SAT preparation and with college applications. During the summers before their sophomore and senior years, the pre-collegiate scholars have an opportunity to get some “college training” with short programs at the Colorado Mountain College and CU-Boulder campuses.

“We work with students from seventh grade to when they graduate from high school,” Griffith said. “It’s not just about applying to college. It’s about setting expectations early on in their schooling that college is possible.”

After launching the program in 2008, The Summit Foundation and the high school quickly found supporters in the Keltner Foundation and the Vail Resorts Echo program, which helped cover personnel, transportation and other program costs.

“One of our goals, through Vail Resorts Echo, is to create brighter futures for local kids by supporting programs that help them reach for bigger dreams than they ever thought possible,” VR’s senior contributions manager Nicky DeFord said. “The pre-collegiate program is one of the most inspiring that Vail Resorts Echo supports because it shows kids a different path and teaches them how to navigate it …”

After helping them through years of hard work and tough applications, the sponsors and administrators of the program still had one task left for the graduates Friday.

“We really need you to come back and tell us your story,” CMC youth outreach coordinator Yesina Arreola told the kids at Friday’s lunch. “Tell us how successful you’ve been so your story can be an inspiration for other students.”

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