When applying for colleges, many high school seniors pick out their dream schools from a long list, but for some, the simple prospect of earning a higher education is all that they could ever dream of — and CSU students are making it possible.
The Dream Project, a student run program at CSU, reaches out to first generation and low income students in the Fort Collins community to help with the overwhelming college application process. By pairing high school students with CSU, mentors in the program provide one-on-one support during each step.
“We work with two schools in Fort Collins: Poudre High School and Fort Collins High School,” said Alfred Castillo, senior natural sciences major and co-founder of the project. “We like to establish a relationship with them during the spring of their junior year and catch them before the last summer.”
Celebrating their fifth year, the program was created to provide an equal opportunity for all high school seniors to get to college. Castillo along with five other students, now graduates, started the program in order to give back.
“For some of us, we understood the trouble it can be to try and apply for college,” Castillo said. “Doing the Dream Project is my way of paying it forward. I never forgot all the guidance and mentoring that I got through high school and into college and I wanted to be able to provide that to other students.”
The Dream Project works closely with counselors at each school in order to refer and recruit students, and helps to strengthen the counseling process.
“A counselor has 100 plus students,” said Jesus Meza, a junior construction management major and leader of high school interactions. “Our volunteers work one-on-one with students until they graduate, and not a lot of schools have that.”
Julie Ulstrip, a counselor at Poudre High School since 2006, has noticed a difference in the students that have gone through the program, and appreciates the work that the mentors do.
“They are coming to me more prepared,” Ulstrip said. “I think it’s a great program for our students. It’s exciting for them to work with (mentors) that are really excited to be in college.”
Even after the program ends, many students come back in order to work as mentors. Evelyn Martinez, a first generation student and graduate from Poudre High School, became a mentor after having a positive experience with the Dream Project.
“It was the best thing that I could have done,” said Martinez, a sophomore business administration major. “It was cool to know that I was talking to somebody who had been in my shoes.”
Now as a mentor, Martinez has had the opportunity to be that somebody, and see the Dream Project from the other side.
“You actually get to see the progress and how these students move forward and pursue their higher education,” Martinez said.
The Dream Project is offered as a three credit class to CSU students interested in giving back to the Fort Collins community.
Collegian Staff Reporter Natasha Leadem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org