Key Community students compete in annual games

Nicole Towne

Between 400 and 500 students from the Key Communities are expected to come out and compete in the ninth annual Key Communities Challenge. The Key Communities provide a supportive academic environment for participating students.

“It’s an opportunity to get students out of the residence hall and outside the classroom to engage in a different way,” said Brian Hayes, Key Explore Community coordinator.


Teams of students participate in a field day of both physical and mental activities, such as volleyball, ultimate frisbee, relays, trivia and CatchPhrase. The winning team gets their team name engraved in a Key Communities victor’s plaque and a catered party — the 2014 victors celebrated their victory with a Qdoba taco and nacho party.

Participating in the Key Community Challenge is just one aspect of the year-long support and transition program. Key focuses on leadership, diversity, service and community. It is freshman-dominated and allows participating students to live and take classes with likeminded students.

Braiden Hall was strategically chosen to house Key students due to its proximity to academic buildings and the library. Colorado State University offers five freshman communities: Key Academic, Key Service, Key Explore, Key Health Professions and Key Culture Communication and Sport. Key Plus is a second-year group that is open to students regardless of whether they participated in Key as a freshman.

Each key community contains between 75 and 150 members, and within each community, there are smaller groups called clusters. The clusters allow students to connect with each other in a small group setting as well as their faculty and student mentors.

“In the cluster, it’s a pretty strong sense of community and a comfortable place where you can actually express your opinions,” said Melissa Ouellette, a freshman living in a Key Explore community.

The Key Explore group is designed especially for undeclared first-years. Besides being able to be part of a group with other undecided students, Ouellette was drawn in by Key’s academic emphasis.

In their first semester, Key students average a 3.0 GPA, which is 0.2-0.3 points above the University average for freshman. Clusters have weekly study sessions in the library and spend time working on academic skills such as time management and study strategies.

“Originally, I was just hoping to find what my major is going to be, but now I’m just hoping to be the best person and student I can be because I realized that there is a lot more than just finding your major,” Ouellette said.

For student mentors Eliher Meza and Alejandra Sullivan, participating in Key means giving back to the program that helped them grow and be successful. Both students started in Key as freshmen and are now leading the same groups that they once turned to during their college transition.

“My mentor helped me through my first year with the hard transitions and the hard points in school, but most of all, my mentor helped me to feel confident and comfortable at CSU, which then led me to be the best I could be,” wrote Sullivan, a senior ethnic studies major, in an email to the Collegian. “Having someone who truly believes in your success goes a long way, and I wanted to be that person and I am for my students. I believe every student can succeed and do well in college if they have someone who supports and believes in them.”


Meza, a senior social work major, said he enjoys working one-on-one with students.

“If I’m able to make a difference in one of my students and see them succeed, it’s awesome,” Meza said.

Meza is looking forward to the Key Community Challenges because they bring the clusters together. This is Meza’s third group he has worked with as a Key mentor, and he enjoys seeing how the challenges bring students “out of their shell.”

For Hayes, the challenges allow a chance to celebrate school spirit and promote the CSU culture.

“It’s all about the green and gold. It’s all about the Rams,” Hayes said.

The challenge is being held from 1-4 p.m. Sept. 26 on the Intramural Fields, and spectators are welcome.

Collegian Reporter Nicole Towne can be reached at or on Twitter @nicole_towne21.