I’m not a morning person. I do everything in my power to avoid getting up before 7:10am, leaving just enough time to get to work at 8 on a typical day. Two Saturdays ago, however, I was happily up by 5:30am and on my way to Pikes Peak Community College for El Pomar’s College Readiness and Success Program (CRSP). Once every few months, a dedicated team of community volunteers, school counselors, representatives from each institution of higher education in Colorado Springs, and several El Pomar staff members come together to host a day-long college and career readiness seminar for over 100 high school students from military families and diverse ethnic backgrounds, many of whom could be first generation college students. During the seminar, students attend college classes, meet with college counselors, fill out financial aid forms, and interact with community leaders who are invested in their success.
This was my third CRSP event with the same group of students; we have also visited Colorado College and UCCS. My “Tenth Grade – Green” group and I are really starting to get to know each other. I refer to them as “my students ,” when I talk about the program and I’ve started to figure out what makes them tick. One of my students is quiet, unaffected, and rarely looks like he’s paying attention. Getting a complete sentence from him is a victory. However, this Saturday in a conversation about problem solving and working in difficult groups, he wordlessly took a notebook full of his sketches out of his backpack and passed it around. I almost cried. I’d tried what felt like hundreds of different ways to engage him, and this time, at Pikes Peak Community College, something clicked.
I studied education policy in school, with a specific focus on traditionally disadvantaged kids in America’s public schools. The CRSP is a way for me to stay connected to that work, and it reminds me, especially at 6:15 in the morning, that it’s this kind of work that gets me out of bed when nothing else would. I get to see my kids learn, grow, and become more confident in their ability to go to college, train to be a skilled worker or join the military. Most importantly, I have the opportunity to watch them realize that they have a choice and opportunity for a bright future. The future is theirs, and if they’re willing to work hard, they have an incredible support network in the community who are ready to help them succeed in whatever choice they make.