Mar 292010
 
Authors: Megan Scoglio

Starting at the end of April, CSU students will help local high school students from low-income households through the college application process, giving them a chance to be the first from their families to get a degree.

The mentoring program, known as The Dream Project (TDP) partners CSU students with high school juniors from Poudre High School who will soon be applying for college by helping them fill out applications for colleges, scholarships and financial aid.         

“Having the additional support from The Dream Project mentors will really allow our students to develop friendships and lasting connections with their mentors who can assist throughout this process,” said Megan Thorson, a Poudre High School counselor.

“Often times we as counselors are overwhelmed with our own daily duties and responsibilities, and having The Dream Team partner with us will in turn allow us to serve our students even better.”

The Dream Team, the program’s six CSU student founders, has accepted applications for will hire about 15 to 20 CSU mentors by the end of March.         

Once the mentors are picked, they will be required to participate in a 20-hour training session and learn the importance of cross-cultural communication, boundaries, leadership, access and outreach and how to build trust with the schools.

TDP will accept 45 to 60 high school students, or scholars, and partner three or four scholars with one CSU mentor.

On April 29, TDP is hosting a barbecue at which program leaders will see which scholars and mentors work well together. They will use this time to identify possible scholar-mentor teams.

A similar program at the University of Washington inspired the idea for TDP, said Michelle Wellman, a graduate student and TDP staff adviser. She then developed the idea for two and a half years.

Last year, she discussed the idea with a few CSU students, six of whom liked the plan and later became The Dream Team.

TDP chose to work with Poudre High School because of its high number of students using free and reduced lunch plans and the small counselor-to-student ratio. The program hopes to expand its network to other local high schools in the future.

Dylan Gallacher, the assistant director of TDP and a CSU junior, is in charge of communicating with the high schools about the project and said some were skeptical of the program’s benefits at first.  
        
“They kept commenting on everything, saying they didn’t know if they could do some of the things we were discussing, such as helping the students make the transition into college life,” Gallacher said. “We wanted to make it clear that we wanted to do it all. It is all on us to make it happen.”

This fall, TDP is hosting an admissions weekend that is dedicated to the scholars filling out three college applications: One for a safe school (one they know they can get into), a solid school and a reach school. They will also receive a step-by-step workbook outlining everything students need to know before heading off to college.

There will also be a get- together for parents to meet the mentors. The date has not yet been decided.

In the end, Gallacher said TDP is a vital component in upholding CSU’s land grant mission.

“The idea behind a land grant university, according to Thomas Jefferson, was to create equal opportunities to education. The Dream Project is at the core of that mission,” Gallacher said. “It is important because we are helping to create experiences we were able to have for others, especially the students that society is making it difficult for.”

Collegian contributor Megan Scoglio can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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