A Colorado charter school network stationed an employee at CSU to guide its graduates through their college careers

By Elizabeth Hernandez
Freshman CSU students Anahi Gandara, left, Cynthia Diaz, center right, and Bianca Balderra, right, talk with Irma Venegas, center left, over snacks during a pre-finals party at Colorado State University in Fort Collins on Dec. 9, 2019. Venegas is the Director of KIPP Through College and Career program, an organization tasked with helping students who graduated from the KIPP Colorado Schools charter network with succeeding in college.

FORT COLLINS — Christian Ontiveros was apprehensive about the idea of heading off to college.

The 18-year-old graduate of KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy felt intimidated navigating the complex world of financial aid. As a first-generation college student and the son of immigrants, Ontiveros knew he would be a minority on the Colorado State University campus.

“I knew it was predominantly white here, so I was relieved this kind of program exists,” Ontiveros said.

The program Ontiveros credits with calming his nerves is a partnership between CSU and the KIPP charter school network. KIPP Colorado Schools is a group of six college-preparatory public high schools primarily serving students of color from low-income households who would be the first in their family to attend college.

The new program stationed a KIPP employee, Jaelyn Coates, on CSU’s Fort Collins campus to help KIPP alumni persist through and graduate from the university.

“Higher ed is not traditionally a place created for students with marginalized identities, so I like the idea of working with students so that they have someone to help them navigate and process through the skills and assets that they bring to a college campus,” Coates said. “I’m helping them apply those skills they already have and build that self-agency and self-advocacy.”

KIPP chose CSU as Coates’ home base, in part, because a good number of the schools’ graduates matriculate to the northern Colorado institution. Out of 195 high school graduates from a KIPP Colorado school in spring of 2019, 44 enrolled at CSU, according to KIPP data. In total, 88 KIPP alumni attend CSU and work with Coates, who started her new job in April.

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