It’s never too early to plant a seed that will inspire pursuit of a college education. But when you’re working with young students for whom college may be a foreign concept, simply talking about it in a classroom doesn’t do the trick.
Julio Alas (BA ’08, MA ’11), a kindergarten teacher at Munroe Elementary School in southwest Denver, was discussing this dilemma with fellow teachers back in 2012. “We were looking for ways to help our students and their families find things missing in their lives, such as direct experience attending college,” Alas says. “We wanted to find a way to make college real for them.”
Munroe serves a low-income, predominately Latino population. Alas and fellow Munroe teacher Jessica Marican were of like mind in how to share their DU experience with students.
“We needed a way to make students aware of what college is by giving them their own college experience,” Alas says.
Alas and Marican worked with DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence and student organization DU Service & Change to build a program that would show students what their future can hold and give parents tools and resources needed to keep their students on a college trajectory. Dubbed “Day of Action,” the event brought kids from Munroe to the DU campus to experience a college environment.
First held in May 2013 as part of the University’s annual Diversity Summit, the Day of Action continues this year as part of the 2014 Diversity Summit, which runs May 8–10. Students from Munroe will be joined this year by students from Smith Elementary in northeast Denver.
In addition to Saturday’s Day of Action, the Diversity Summit includes a Thursday night community session with a film screening and book signing, and Friday’s main event, featuring workshops, breakout sessions, a lunchtime award ceremony and a keynote speech from Marybeth Gasman, professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania.
The sold-out community event on Thursday evening includes a screening of the film “American Promise,” which follows the educational journey of two African-American boys over 14 years. The filmmakers will be available after the screening for questions.
Topics in Friday’s breakout sessions range from diversity in technology and in the classroom to teaching inclusive history and fighting stigma.
“There’s really something for everyone,” says Arriana Belkin, Diversity Summit student coordinator and a sophomore majoring in international studies and socio-legal studies. “It’s going to be applicable, engaging and exciting for the audience.”
For a complete schedule of events, to register for the breakout sessions or to volunteer, visit the Diversity Summit website.