Published: July 18, 2016
Pre-collegiate Program event

No summer slowdown exists for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement (ODECE). In partnership with academic departments across campus, ODECE hosts more than 1,500 middle and high school students, and soon-to-be freshmen in a variety of summer pre-collegiate programming.

“Summer presents us an opportunity to be innovative as we work to increase student diversity in our enrollment and as we look to increase student success outcomes, particularly for our first generation students and our students from diverse backgrounds,” said David Aragon, executive director for student success, ODECE.

ODECE’s programs range from eight to 500 participants and run the entire summer season, beginning in late May and concluding in early August. Underserved and underrepresented students from school districts across Colorado come to CU Boulder for a taste of college life—both in academic rigor and residential experience.

“They begin to see in a more tangible way how education and a college degree translates toward a future of possibilities, to become a professional, to have a career and to be successful in a field of interest that they might have,” said Aragon.

These summer programs contribute to the overall retention and graduation rates for students of color, while helping the university build smaller communities on campus. Two of the programs, Upward Bound and the Pre-Collegiate Development Program (PCDP), are well into their third decade of service for first generation students.

“These two programs have helped us as an institution to appreciate and capitalize on the opportunity that summer presents to have an impact on preparing students for college,” said Aragon.

For soon-to-be freshmen, Summer Bridge programs offer a multidimensional experience to help with the transition to higher education. These programs, which are career or major-specific, invite students to explore disciplines including engineering, business, education, journalism and aerospace.

“We have a lot of positive results from our Summer Bridge programs knowing that students are able to—through these experiences over multiple weeks—acclimate more effectively to the environment of the university,” said Aragon. “This includes the academic expectations and the culture of a large public research university, while helping them get to know other students, upperclassmen, professors and staff who are part of the local communities we have at CU.”

Current CU Boulder students, many who participated in summer programming themselves, serve as peer mentors, instructional assistants and residential staff. The upper-class students act as role models, while gaining valuable leadership experience, said Aragon.

In addition to pre-collegiate programming, Colorado Diversity Initiatives offers a 10-week summer research internship—Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training (SMART)—for underrepresented and first generation students nationwide. Many SMART participants will continue in their fields of study, pursuing masters and doctorate degrees, either at CU Boulder or elsewhere.

“Programs like this make CU a more dynamic university,” said Aragon. “They go a long way in fostering trust within our communities of color and in strengthening our relationships with communities across the state. These summer programs are helping prepare for a more fluid opportunity to interact across differences.”

Summer Diversity Academic Programs by the Numbers:

  • 20 undergraduate researchers
  • 500 middle school students who participated in DPS Spanish Heritage Day
  • 242 summer bridge program participants
  • Eight reservation communities served through Upward Bound
  • Nine high school programs
  • 1,500 students served this summer

Photo: Celebrating is another important aspect of the summer programs. On June 22, students from all of the programs were invited to play carnival games, eat and dance with Chip during the Summer Gathering outside the Center for Community.