Academics and Research

VIP program turns 20

While attending Denver’s West High School, Angela Romero wasn’t sure that she wanted to go to college or what she wanted to do with her life — an idea she’s still pondering. The one thing she is sure of, though, is that the Volunteers in Partnership (VIP) Program changed the outlook she has for her future.

As a junior in high school, Romero was first introduced to the VIP program through a presentation made by a group of DU students providing insight for completing college applications. At that point, she had no desire to attend college, but seeing students from her school succeed encouraged her to believe in herself.

“I’m first-generation so even though my parents were encouraging me to go to college, I didn’t see the point,” Romero says. “The VIP program created a support system for me to achieve better things.”

Now a senior management major at DU, Romero admits that her life has changed dramatically since the inclusion of the VIP Program in her life, from guidance in completing college applications during high school to her current work as the director of the summer programs coordinated by VIP.

Romero is just one of many who have benefited from the VIP Program over the past two decades.

Since 1990, the program has been partnering DU students with members of the greater-Denver community to aid students from disadvantaged schools in furthering their education.

Anita Springsteen (BA international studies ’92, MA international administration ’01) was one of the first students to become involved in the program. Springsteen now is a general attorney with her own firm, Springsteen Law Firm LLC, but she admits the VIP Program motivated her to pursue a successful career.

“There is a special bond between people who came from a similar background, who understand the difference between being at West and then being thrust into a completely different foreign culture at DU,” Springsteen says. “It’s hard to fit in, but VIP helped all of us feel that we did fit in and belong there at DU.”

When Springsteen began attending DU, she was the only student from Denver West High School.

Springsteen says the program has changed the mindset of a generation of students from “I’m not good enough to go to college” to “I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

The VIP Program aspires to promote self-esteem in students, encourage students to complete high school and continue their education or training, and bridge transitions between middle school, high school, post-secondary education or training and careers.

Aimed at economically disadvantaged students, the program started with just Denver West High School students but has since expanded to five other schools. While only one student from Denver West attended DU in 1990, there are more than 50 students from the VIP Program attending DU today.

“It’s one of the best programs I’ve seen that partners high schools with the University, especially with the population we serve being students of color, first generation, and don’t think they can go to college,” says VIP Director Linda McCurdy.

The program aims to instill the value of volunteering in the community to help others in similar situations who might fall between the cracks, McCurdy explains.

So, students who participate in the program are asked to serve 15 hours of volunteer work per academic quarter.

“They’re not only modeling how to be college students, they’re modeling how to be good citizens,” McCurdy says.

Cathaerine Ferguson (BSBA ’03), a graduate of the VIP Program who now is a marketing manager in DU’s Office of Special Community Programs, attributes her success to the program she was introduced to during her senior year of high school.

“I’m a believer in the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, and the VIP Program was my village,” Ferguson says.

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