Seventh grade students from Lincoln Middle School visited Colorado State University last week as part of a new program designed to get them thinking about attending college early.
"The kids are learning about the community outside of Lincoln and learning to look forward to academic life after middle and high school," explained Charlene Peterson, Principal Intern at Lincoln, who helped to coordinate the pilot program. "They're getting a taste of the culture of college life."
The pre-teens listened to a panel of first-generation CSU students, toured campus, ate in the dining hall, peeked into a dorm, and hung out with student athletes at the indoor practice field.
"I've never seen such a big place," Priest Muniz, a seventh grader said in awe as he walked around the sprawling athletic facility. With dreams of playing football after high school, throwing the ball around with CSU football players was a highlight of the day for him.
"This is teaching me a lot," he said. "I want to be the first kid in my family to actually graduate. I learned today that you have to work your hardest to get here — you have to train not just your mind, but your body too."
All of the Lincoln students walked away with a better understanding of what it takes to attend college, especially after having the chance to ask their questions to the first-generation student panel.
"Do you have to have money to go to CSU?" one Lincoln student asked. The answer — explaining scholarships, grants and loans — surprised her.
"For some students, this might be the first time they're considering that college might be possible, so they're really impacted by hearing stories from older students who have been in their place," Stacy Grant, RamTrax Visitor Services Director said. She said CSU hopes to expand the pilot program to other secondary schools in PSD, in keeping with CSU's mission to make a positive impact on the local community.
And as students wearily climbed back on the bus — cheery but tired from a long day of activities, stuffed with waffles and Pad Thai and tacos — the impact could already be felt.
"I realized today that whatever your boundaries are — if it's issues with money, or anything — no matter what your boundaries are, you can find a way to overcome them," seventh grader Sammi York said with a smile.