Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Summer program gives high school students college experience

DU’s Summer Link to College program, in partnership with the Rita Bass Foundation and the Denver Foundation, this summer brought together 42 juniors from Denver-area high schools for a week of campus life.

Students played and worked alongside DU students and professors on topics ranging from literature to computers.

“The aim of this program is to increase multicultural diversity on college campuses, and not just on this campus,” says Cathy Grieve, director of DU’s special community programs. “Hopefully some of these kids will go on to attend the University of Denver. If not, Summer Link exposes them to college and empowers them to consider going on to higher education.”

Grieve worked with Summer Link co-directors Carole Burgess and Linda McCurdy, graduate students and a team of undergrads to reach out to diverse mix of students, many who are unsure of their educational future despite their demonstrated ability in high school. This year, the Rita Bass and Denver Foundation gifts enabled every student who applied to be accepted to the program.

Grieve says the students experienced all aspects of college life. In addition to classroom learning, they explored the Ritchie Center and its recreational opportunities, participated in a formal dinner that doubled as an etiquette lesson, and lived in the dorms.

Students also took in a performance of the Broadway play The Little Mermaid and did their own theater workshops back at DU’s Newman Center.

“We just give them a taste of college life and let them know that it’s possible for them,” Burgess says. “We really feel it’s so important to bring them here, make them a part of the program.”

Katherine Courtnage, a master’s candidate at the Graduate School of International Studies, worked directly with the students.

“We wanted to get them excited about college, to take away some of the anxieties of going to college,” Courtnage says. “A lot of them are going to be the very first person in their families to go to college. This shows them that it’s an option for them, that it’s not out of their reach, that they can do this.”

While the Summer Link program is 17 years old, it has traditionally been associated with West High School. This year, the program accepted students from five high schools: West, Abraham Lincoln, Pinnacle Charter, the Denver Center for International Studies and the Denver School for Science and Technologies.

Looking ahead, Grieve says she’s eager to see Summer Link reach even more students and show them what’s possible.

“The emphasis is on how life might be on campus anywhere in the U.S.A. This is a way for us to reach out to these kids who have such tremendous potential.”


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