Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Summer Link a sneak peak at college for high school juniors

A few years ago, Pablo Moreno wasn’t sure about college. Attending Denver’s West High School, he was on the fence, uncertain whether higher education was for him.

Fast forward to a day in August 2008: The DU senior is poised to graduate from the Daniels College of Business next May with a degree in real estate and construction management. And, the 21-year old stands before a crowd of teens who are pondering the same questions he faced a few years ago.

Moreno was back for his third year as a volunteer student leader at DU’s Summer Link to College — a program for Denver-area high school students about to enter their junior year that exposes them to life on a college campus. They live in dorms, explore campus, take in classes and go on cultural field trips.

This year, from Aug. 5–9, nearly 50 students toured a television station, a ranch and DU’s historic Chamberlin Observatory; ate cafeteria food and took classes.

“It was a very eye-opening experience for me,” says Moreno. “It made me realize that I could do it. That it was something I could take on.”

Political science Assistant Professor Seth Masket challenged Summer Link students to examine how the news media molds the public’s views on politics, and how politicians try to shape their message through news reporters.

“This is a big topic in political science,” he explained. “Just how big a factor is the media?”

The class quickly turned from lecture to lively discussion, as students began probing how changing media values and the proliferation of media outlets have changed politics and turned attention from issues to scandals.

The students came to DU from five area high schools: Denver Center for International Studies, Denver School of Science and Technology, Abraham Lincoln, Pinnacle and West. Donations from the Rita Bass Foundation and the Denver Foundation helped expand the program from just West High School to the others last year.

Cathy Grieve, director of the University’s Special Community Programs, says Summer Link involves students’ families to drive home the value of the college experience. At the end, some 200 family members joined the “graduates” as they presented the results of their work.

“The 2008 Summer Link students experienced college life from the perspective of academics and culture and community activities,” Grieve says. “It is rewarding and inspiring to work with these students, who are enthusiastic about what life has to offer but are unsure about college.”

Grieve says in recent years, tracking numbers have shown about 80 percent of the students who attend Summer Link go on to pursue higher education, and a few of those students end up attending DU.

“The goal of the program isn’t to serve as a recruitment tool for DU, rather it’s to serve the community and encourage qualified students to pursue higher education and to show them that they are capable and college is something they can tackle.”

Carol Burgess, co-director of DU’s Volunteers in Partnership program, says bringing together students from five schools helps them form friendships with others from different backgrounds and experiences.

“The goal of Summer Link is to maintain strong and valuable relationships with these students throughout their junior and senior years of high school,” she says. “By providing support, workshops and special events, we strengthen these relationships.”

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