Nov 272006

Students who belong to underprivileged schools have a greatly reduced chance of making it to college. A CSU living/learning community hopes to reverse this trend through a program called the Colorado Educational Engagement Initiative (CEEI).”For some of those students to get to college, a lot of obstacles will have to be overcome, and it’s more than just money,” said Michelle Wellman, creator of CEEI and coordinator of the Key Service Community.

CEEI was created in conjunction with the Key Service Community, a freshman living/learning community designed to promote community outreach and student retention.

The Key Service Community participates in many community outreach programs throughout the school year in both the Fort Collins community and greater Denver area.

In addition to assisting at-risk students, the program is also designed to facilitate some of the goals outlined in the Colorado State University Strategic Plan for 2006-2015 and President Larry Penley’s five-year plan to promote diversity at CSU.

CEEI directly correlates with certain parts of the plan. Goals two and twelve under the plan’s section Teaching and Learning relate closely to CEEI’s program goals, which are to “improve the access, retention and graduation rates for all students, especially those from groups traditionally underserved by higher education” and “foster a campus culture that attracts and supports a diverse student body and promotes a diverse culture in which to study and learn,” respectively.

The initiative also facilitates goal 28 under the section Service and Outreach: “Prepare teachers and ready students for success in targeted Colorado schools.”

For their cluster service project last year, the Sociology, Ethnicity, and Civility course cluster within the community, comprised of mainly sociology majors, decided to develop an outreach relationship with some Denver at-risk schools.

The cluster developed a close relationship with Kearney Middle School in Adams County, Wellman said, by traveling to the middle school and conducting workshops designed to educate the students about the admissions process and how they can someday attend college.

Lou Swanson, the seminar professor for the Sociology, Ethnicity, and Civility cluster, says the program is a success.

“Normally, there is a huge national divide between K through 12 grades and higher education. We are working to make a connection with the kids because we want them to have some form of higher education and to hopefully come to CSU,” Swanson said.

Wellman believes the outreach program is important to help students who normally wouldn’t have the chance to go to college, saying, “The students in the rural communities and some Denver schools have to deal with issues like citizenship status, their family background, whether or not they graduate from high school and if they can make it that far.”

“We are successful in reaching students who are normally left off the map,” she added.

“It’s great to get the students to think early on about what they want to do,” Wellman said. “It’s important to do this because by the time the students reach their junior and senior years in high school, it may be too late.”

Amanda Goodanetz, a freshman history education major, says the workshop helped tone her teaching skills.

“I think it is great to educate the students about how there is a place for them in college,” she said. “I also gain more experience with teaching when I work with the kids.”

The Key Service Community is set to hold more workshops on Nov. 28 and Nov. 30 at Kearney Middle School and Hanson Elementary School, which is only a couple blocks from Kearney.

“We’ve created a pipeline program with these at-risk schools and it is in our interest to bring students from these diverse populations to CSU,” Wellman said.

Next year, the Key Service Community plans to, once again, expand its CEEI program with a new journalism cluster, which would cooperate with CEEI, CSU professors and Denver media outlets. To continue the outreach tradition, the Key Service Community is considering picking a school in Denver and working with it to establish a school newspaper or Web site.

Staff writer Taryn Clark can be reached at

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