Sep 192010
Authors: Jennifer Saylor

Saturday’s cooler, cloudy weather didn’t stop first- and second-year students from having a great time in the Key Communities Challenges.

The sound of laughter filled the misty air as Key students gathered around to show “cluster pride” and compete in games like ultimate Frisbee, volleyball, Catchphrase and even relay races on CSU’s intramural fields Saturday afternoon.

A cluster is a group of about 10 to 20 students who live together, take classes together and bond with each other through their transition from high school to college. Mentors lead each cluster and provide guidance and support to CSU’s newest students as they learn how to be successful in school and in the community.  

For Saturday’s events, each cluster had its own shirt color and design –– everything from lime green to tie-dye. Some clusters wore headbands while others had bright blue and purple face paint. Several proudly chanted their own special cheer to build excitement and get the adrenaline flowing as they competed for pizza parties.  

Key Plus Coordinator Lory Ann Varela led the day’s activities, fostering an atmosphere of team pride, excitement and good sportsmanship.

Varela, a full-time Ph.D. student in the Organizational Performance and Change Program, has been involved with the Key Program since 2006 and has been a resident instructor since 2007. Her goal is to create positive changes in the community through team building among the students.

“Anyone is welcome to be a part of a Key,” Varela said.  

James Bryant, one of the community’s mentors, said the Key Communities “bring together people of all different backgrounds to reach common goals and initiatives.”  

The competition events serve to strengthen relationships between cluster members and Keys.

The Key Communities Program, which is offered as a housing option for incoming students in Braiden and Parmalee Halls, is a highly diverse group of more than 400 students. The program creates unity among the students, encouraging them to form close-knit groups of people who share similar interests such as Holistic Health Care, Psychobiology or Art Activism.
Ryan Mondragon, a key mentor, said the students work together in study groups and create lasting friendships while developing sense of responsibility on the collegiate and professional level.

“We’re not here to hold their hands, but to be a resource for them,” Mondragon said.  “We teach them how to fly and let them fly.”  

Staff writer Jennifer Saylor can be reached at

Get Involved

*Walk-ins welcome at the Key Community Office in Aylesworth on the second floor.
*Phone number: 970-491-2134.

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