CU Mentors Strives to Make College Attainable


According to the New York Times, “President Obama and the Common Core Standards [have put] the ‘college and career ready’ mantra on the lips of K-12 educators across the country.” Deciding what college to attend is now on the lengthy list of things that the fourth and fifth graders of Oakland Elementary School in Denver must do. College preparedness is starting at an earlier age, and along with choosing between their favorite Ninja Turtles, kids are trying to choose between Yale and Harvard.

The Lynx To College Now! program is based on inspiring this very idea in the minds and hearts of children. However, a team of CU Denver mentors realizes that there’s more at stake than college preparedness.

_Q7A2898“Montbello is a traditionally underserved community in Denver,” Hannah Stobaugh, a Lynx To College Now! mentor, said. “Since the community is undergoing a lot of transition, it has been difficult to keep up with the needs of a growing population. Unfortunately, education often gets pushed to the side.”

This problem is intensified because most federal dollars are attached to a school’s quota for tests and scores. “The focus isn’t on holistic education or being members of a community,” Stobaugh said. “The schools receive funding for test scores—so, as a result, teachers teach to the test.”

The Lynx To College Now! mentors aim to do more by bringing a community-based mentality into the classroom.

The mentors decide themes, activities, and field trips on a rotating basis. “If we plan a nutrition field trip, we’ll do nutrition based classroom activities,” Stobaugh said. This doesn’t mean that they are afraid to dive into deeper topics, though.

Stobaugh is driving her students to think about the community around them. “I’m having them draw an asset map of their own mind,” Stobaugh said. “What they feel that they’re good at, what they’d like to improve on, and what they feel they bring to the classroom.”

This activity coincides with a project that combines the world of Harry Potter and human rights. The project is based in an existing program called Engage New York.

“It’s hard for the kids to engage,” Stobaugh said. The language is complicated and they’re talking about things that aren’t in their community knowledge base. So the teachers and the mentors are using Harry Potter to talk about community movements and how students can make a difference in their lives. Using common language to build conversations.”

Fourth and fifth grades are critical times for elementary students. It is said that most children make the decision of whether or not they’re going to college by the end of elementary school. The future of the Lynx To College Now! program hopes to usher the students closer to the university experience.

“Bringing students into architecture classrooms, student organization meetings, and campus events will help develop the idea that college can be a reality for these students,” Stobaugh said. “We hope that we can be the link that helps them decide their own future.”


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