Published: July 2, 2021 By

Banner image: Mariajose Baca, Serene Ferjani and other Colorado high school students climbing on the CU Boulder challenge course. (Credit: Glenn Asakawa, CU Boulder)

High school graduates who are heading to CU Boulder in the fall traveled from around Colorado to campus recently to get a taste of college life. 

CU Boulder's Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (ODECE) as well as many of the university's colleges and schools sponsor summer bridge programs for high school students from underserved communities before they arrive on campus as first-year students, providing academic enrichment and community-building activities.

Summer Bridge students at the CU Boulder challenge course

ODECE summer bridge program students on the CU Boulder challenge course. (Credit: Glenn Asakawa, CU Boulder)

Most of these bridge programs are virtual this summer, although a few have been able to offer some in-person programming. ODECE’s Pre-Collegiate Summer Bridge Program brought about a dozen students from Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, the Roaring Fork Valley, Summit and Lake counties to live on campus as part of the three-week program, and is designed for students who have participated in CU Boulder's pre-college outreach programs since middle school. 

The students take leadership, writing and academic success classes and learn about campus resources that will support them as they transition to college and move toward graduation, said Maria Castro Barajas, assistant director of the ODECE pre-collegiate bridge program. 

“The bridge program is a cohort experience that helps students create a peer community prior to starting college in the fall, which we have found promotes greater success when they arrive,” Castro Barajas said. 

For Mariajose Baca, a first-generation student from Denver, the pre-college outreach programs have helped her and her parents prepare for college and feel comfortable on campus. 

“I have received so much support from Dr. Maria, from my peer mentors, with classes, with understanding how much college would cost and my financial aid package,” said Baca, who plans to study business management in Leeds School of Business. 

Being on campus for the ODECE bridge program has calmed Marcos Estrada’s nerves before he starts his first year in the Program in Exploratory Studies. 

“I am the first in my family to go to college,” said Estrada, while sitting outside Baker Hall between classes. “I was very nervous about fall, but I have met a great bunch of people and it’s made me really excited to start at CU Boulder.”

Marcos Estrada in a summer bridge program classMarcos Estrada talks to other summer bridge students during an an academic prep class. (Credit: Casey Cass, CU Boulder)

Participants in the College of Media, Communication and Information (CMCI) Pathways to Excellence and CMCI Connections programs also spent some time on campus this summer. These programs provide the opportunity to build community and relationships, learn about campus resources and explore CMCI classes in media studies, public speaking, rhetoric, strategic communications and more, said David Martinez, CMCI’s coordinator of inclusive excellence and outreach. 

The Pathways program solidified Téa Villareal’s decision to come to CU Boulder, because she wanted to get a head start, understand the range of CMCI classes and learn more about how to reach her goal of working in the music industry. 

“There are so many majors in CMCI,” said Villareal, who is from Broomfield. “This program is helping me figure out what I want to do and get me to where I want to be.”