Campus & Community

Seventh grade students visit DU campus, attend mock classes

When Mitchel Livingston was in middle school, his guidance counselor told him he should learn to work with his hands, because he wasn’t “college material.”

So, when Livingston earned his bachelor’s degree, he took his diploma back to that counselor and laid it in front of him saying, “See this. I guess I am college material.”

Livingston went on to earn a master’s degree, then a PhD and is today a vice president and chief diversity officer for the University of Cincinnati, with two offers on the table to become president of a major university.

On Feb. 21, Livingston shared his story with seventh graders from Highline Academy visiting the University of Denver campus.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not college material,” Livingston said. “Each of you can get where I am today.”

Highline Academy is a K-8 Denver charter school established in 2004 to provide a rigorous, inclusive learning environment. DU’s Morgridge College of Education works in close partnership with Highline, providing graduate students who assist in counseling, curricula development and research. With DU’s help, Highline will soon provide K-12 education for a study body that includes 463 students from 55 national backgrounds.

Student Troi McNeil said Highline allowed her to escape a Denver school with “too much drama.” She said the teachers are nicer and the standards are higher than the school she left. Her classmate Shelbie Reisman agreed, saying “Highline’s academic system is better.” Both students were confident they would go on to college, probably to DU.

Morgridge’s Higher Education program sponsored the “Access, Equity and Excellence for Life Week,” which included the visit from Highline students. Kent Seidel, associate professor and chair of Higher Education’s P-20 Leadership programs, said DU’s partnership with Highline could become a national model for university-community collaboration. The Morgridge program, he said, is preparing education leaders to support a seamless education system from pre-school through graduate school, aligned in part with the goals of Gov. Bill Ritter’s new P-20 Education Coordinating Council.

“University leaders will have to think about how the university connects with the community,” Seidel said.

On a sunny Colorado Thursday, DU representatives did just that. Highline students not only listened to Livingston’s inspiring story, they toured the campus, sat in on mock classes and were treated to lunch at Nelson Hall. As they got a taste of college life, DU leaders encouraged the seventh graders to consider college and begin planning to achieve their goals.

“Be committed, stay focused and work hard,” said Wahhab Carter, assistant director of admissions.

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