By Hannah Stewart (Comm’19)
Photos by Kimberly Coffin (CritMed, StratComm’18)

On a hot and sunny afternoon in July, 11 high school students tie-dyed t-shirts behind Farrand Hall. These students, ranging from about 15 to 18 years old, were part of the first in-person session of Connections: CMCI Summer Academy.

Connections, now in its second year, brings high school students from underserved areas to the University of Colorado Boulder to experience classes and daily life on campus. For the College of Media, Communication and Information, the free, weeklong program is part of its pre-collegiate outreach efforts. For the summer academy students, it’s an opportunity to explore higher education and to network.

“[We want students to] create relationships in their high schools so that they see college is something that is possible in their future,” said Sara Jamieson, founding faculty director of the program. “Hopefully they see a fit for themselves in CMCI.”

With class topics ranging from research to podcasts, students were introduced to various professors and other campus resources. Current CMCI students, many of whom participated in CMCI Pathways to Excellence Summer Intensive, served as peer mentors. 

Only some of the students knew what they might pursue in college, and many expressed interest in news, photography and radio. This year’s theme was storytelling, which provided the students with the opportunity to explore the idea of sharing stories through various mediums.

“I do the news at my school,” said Sara Marquez, a rising sophomore at Denver North High School. “I’m really glad I came because I had no idea we’d be doing all this fun stuff . . . [Connections] gave me an insight to all the options I have.”

In a workshop exploring both design and rhetoric, Assistant Professor Steven Frost from the Department of Media Studies helped students create flags that reflected their interests and identities. 

Later in the program, students worked with a Radio 1190 DJ, who invited them to pick songs and speak live on the afternoon radio program. Some were eager, most were nervous and almost all of them were smiling at the opportunity to be on the air.

“The radio was a lot of fun,” said Jaena Moore, a rising junior at Denver North High School. “It was really cool to see my music on the radio, and it’s definitely not something I’d be able to do outside this camp.”

Students also had a photography session with Eric Coombs Esmail, an instructor in the Department of Critical Media Practices, that explored the theory and practical skills related to the artform. This was a favorite of many of the students, who all said that they liked the hands-on nature of Connections as a whole.

Hannah Martin, a rising junior at Denver West, came back for another year of Connections after the 2021 session was held remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would consider going to CU. The people there are really like a family, and I felt safe and welcomed the whole time. Don’t hold back, do [Connections],” she said, offering some advice to other high school students. “It’s really fun seeing what life at college might be like for you.”