Campus & Community

DU’s student-powered Day of Action introduces elementary schoolers to college life

First held in May 2013, the annual DU Day of Action is the brainchild of DU alumnus Julio Alas (BA ’08, MA ’11).

Alas worked at the time as a kindergarten teacher at a school with a large population of students of color and many future first-generation college students. He wanted to find a better way to expose elementary school students to what it means to go to college.

“We always spoke to them about this mystical place called college and what happens there, but for many of the students, this concept was too abstract,” says Alas, who subsequently approached the Center for Multicultural Excellence, DU Service and Change (DUSC) and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning to create an on-campus experience for elementary students.

“Over these past four years, hundreds of students have been able to visit the campus and experience college life firsthand with their families,” Alas says. “It fills me with great joy to see students who may be the first to go to college get a taste of what it means to get a higher education by giving them the experience of walking on a college campus and participating in demonstrations that expose them to areas of study and other opportunities that DU has to offer. We are planting the seeds of education in these young minds, and I can’t wait to see what the future will hold for these students as they grow older and contemplate the possibility of pursuing higher education.”

This year’s Day of Action on Saturday, April 16, will include the elementary school event — now called “College? For Certain!” — with students from Johnson, Trevista and Stein elementary schools. Using DU students, faculty and alumni as volunteers, the event has been expanded this year to include a “Growing Green” track, with projects at the DU Bridge Community Garden, Groundwork Denver, Sister Gardens, and Denver Parks & Recreation; and a “Building Community” track with Habitat for Humanity. The day culminates in a celebration with interactive games, activities and refreshments, plus a volunteer fair hosted by Colorado Young Leaders and DUSC.

Sarah Yaffe, a DU senior who will graduate in June with degrees in international studies and French, has been involved in the annual DU Day of Action each of her four years on campus.

“I remember being very nervous and not knowing what to expect,” she says of her first time at the event in 2013. “This event was really powerful for me because I am a first-generation college student, and college was always the goal. Being able to express that goal in a more positive way for these elementary school students was really emotional.”

Yaffe says she “learns more and more each year as we adapt the event to fit the community we are trying to serve better. My third year, we added a translator to speak in Spanish to the parents of the students. And this year we will have three languages being represented so that no word is left out. Everyone’s voice — especially the students’ — should be heard. I love Day of Action. It is a stressful, amazing event that has greatly shaped my college career and ultimately my identity.”



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