Co-written by Staff at HIP and Girls Inc. of Metro Denver On a Saturday in early August, 89 first-generation college students gathered at the History Colorado Center in Denver, CO to participate in an event as part of Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) and the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado’s (LCFC) HIP to College initiative. The event, a “college shower” called Ready, Set, College! (RSC!), brought students together from across the greater Denver area and provided them with college preparation support and much needed resources. The HIP to College initiative in Colorado focuses on “summer melt,” which occurs when college intending students finish high school in the spring, and don’t enroll in any kind of school in the fall. Five organizations in the Denver metro area have developed or honed “summer melt” programs as part of the HIP to College initiative: Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, Mi Casa Resource Center, Latin American Education Foundation, Mapleton Education Foundation, and Adams 14 Education Foundation. By directly engaging the high percentage of low income, Latino youth who graduate high school at the beginning of summer either intending to go on to postsecondary education or with college acceptance, these organizations seek to reduce the number of students who do not enroll in postsecondary options at the end of the summer. The RSC! “college shower” event, hosted by the 2015 class of Leadership Denver, a program of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, proved to be a highly successful component.
Students came equipped with questions, concerns, and plenty of enthusiasm, which dictated the day’s discussions and led to some meaningful observations. One participant, Noel Deleon said, “being a first-generation college student is incredibly important because it paves the pathway for the rest of my family.” Another participant, Julian Cazares, remarked how the program helped him be a little less nervous about starting college, “it took a load off my shoulders,” he said, “you’ve got to be independent and you’re not going to have your parents or your teachers there to guide you in every step.” The half-day RSC! program included a first-generation student panel, workshops on financial maturity and time management, a keynote speaker, and the distribution of several, essential items required for college success. Thanks to an outpouring of support from the Denver community, each student received an RSC! t-shirt and tote bag filled with: student essentials such as water bottles, flash drives, a portable charger, power strips, composition notebooks, and over $400 in gift cards to purchase other supplies or items for their dorm rooms. In addition, 20 laptops were given away through a drawing. The RSC! event not only provided students with the literal tools to be successful in college, it also generated excitement around attending, and connected students with a network of supportive peers. HIP applauds this effort to truly engage youth as they start the next step of their lives. Felicidades, and best of luck, to these smart, motivated, and talented young men and women!