May 6, 2010
By Rebecca Howard
Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education. That's why CSU's Access Center provides multiple programs to help individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds get to college and succeed once they get there.
Statistically speaking, it is less likely that someone like Derek Rau would make it to college – he is from a lower income household, and neither of his parents have a college degree.
"I have always liked Fort Collins and I have been a Ram fan since I can remember," Rau said of his decision to come to CSU.
According to Rau, he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of Educational Talent Search, a program that works with students in middle school and high school to encourage and prepare them for college.
“Talent Search opened doors to me that changed my life in positive ways,” Rau said. “I was given an education that prepared me for success, as well as opportunities and experiences I would not have had otherwise.”
Educational Talent Search is just one program operated through CSU’s Access Center, an office that strives to help students succeed in a university setting through additional support.
Although the name was officially changed to "The Access Center" in 2009, the office was first established in 1977 when CSU received a grant through TRiO, a federal program that aims to build educational opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Upward Bound was the first program offered, which is geared toward helping high school students develop academic skills, learn about financial aid and ultimately prepare them for college.
“Wherever the kid wanted to go to college, we’d help them get there,” said Oscar Felix, the executive director of the Access Center. “That was the goal.”
The Upward Bound program is operated through the Access Center.
According to Felix, the Access Center was inspired by the principles of TRiO to create similar programs using university funding to help disadvantaged students not only attend CSU, but succeed once they get there.
There are currently four programs offered through the Access Center that operate on university funding:
The Alliance Partnership works with 10 high schools across the state of Colorado that, "have a lot of need," Felix said.
CSU provides assistance to these schools though community engagement and funding for resources, like a software program that makes the college application process easier for students and their counselors.
The Alliance Partnership also offers a renewable $2,500 award for students from the 10 schools if they choose to attend CSU for college.
The Dream Project consists of 21 CSU students that serve as mentors to students at Poudre High School.
The Bridge Scholars program aims to prepare students for college by getting them started the summer before their fall semester at CSU. Students in the program live in the residence halls and take two summer college courses over the eight-week period.
The program gives them added support with its strict guidelines, such as curfew, mandatory study hours, access to tutoring and other educational opportunities. The purpose is to help them develop writing, test-taking and studying skills that they may not have gained in high school.
"This program is open to Upward Bound students, Talent Search students, and any of the students who Admissions would love to have here," Felix said. "They just need the extra boost."
Reach Out serves a similar purpose to TRiO's Educational Talent Search by working with local middle schools and high schools to help disadvantaged students prepare for higher education. Reach out currently serves five schools:
Felix said the middle school and high school students enjoy meeting with actual college students. "The students just love it," he added.
The Dream Project is a new, student-initiated venture started this year through the Reach Out program. A group of 21 CSU students mentor juniors and seniors at Poudre High School and help them with college applications, prepping for ACT and SAT tests and applying for financial aid.
Felix said the driving force behind the Access Center is the goal of making higher education accessible to everyone.
"If CSU is going to be true of its mission of being accessible to all of the people of Colorado, then there has to be an avenue for that to happen," he said. "We believe our programs serve as that avenue."
And for Rau, that promise rings true.
"[Their] selflessness and devotion to students truly makes a difference in so many lives," he said.
For more information on the Access Center and the programs it provides, visit www.accesscenter.colostate.edu.