College Opportunity Scholarship Boosts Under-served Students

By Joshua Cowden

The Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative Grant is a state-administered program that leverages almost $40,000,000.00 in grant funds specifically for under-served student populations.

Pikes Peak Community College Students from Harrison District 2 will benefit most from the continued support of a local grant called the College Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), also known as the Door-to-Door initiative. COSI offers a great opportunity for District 2 students that are hoping to attend college. Historically, District-2 is a lower income district in the state, and statistics show that nearly three quarters of all Harrison District 2 students are from racial minorities and low-income families, many of which may have never even considered the idea of college before an opportunity like this. See here

The community partnership grant, which began helping students in the spring of 2015, is administered by PPCC, Discover Goodwill, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, and the Career Readiness Academy (CRA) at Sierra High School.

Lincoln Wulf, Director of Advising and Testing at PPCC, heads the program for the college, but a lot of the work is done by Case Manager Sarah Hancock, who works for Discover Goodwill, and Grant Navigator Briana Walls, who reports directly to Wulf.

According to Wulf, “In the 2 years prior to the grant only 4 students from the Career Readiness Academy ever applied to PPCC – and only one ever enrolled; lasting one semester. This year alone we have 16 students attending PPCC from this cohort.”

The partnership supports students through intensive case management and specific advising. Advisers work on academic and support that get students who have dropped out of high school to return to school and make college a possible option again. Their work has increased the high school graduation rates for students in CRA and the transfer rates to Pikes Peak Community College.

 

Wulf said, “It’s important because it brings opportunity to students who otherwise would have very little chance of improving their circumstances.  These students come from very challenging and difficult home situations and face obstacles to their personal growth and development as young people that most of us won’t face in a lifetime.”

COSI recipient, PPCC student Issiac Valerio, currently studying Automotive Collision Technology, said he first heard about COSI from staff at Sierra High School. “Without the program, I probably wouldn’t be going to college,” said Valerio.

Fantaiza Jackson, a first-year student majoring in Culinary Arts said, “Programs like COSI are very important because not everyone can afford to go to school. My advisor first told me about it and it has allowed me to pursue my goals in college.”

This is exciting news for a group of students often under-represented in college. Grants like COSI will go a long way in helping to promote diversity at PPCC. This actually happens to be a goal for the school, which hopes to become a Hispanic Serving Institution by 2020. District 2’s population is made up of almost 50% Hispanic students.

Wulf said, “It gives them the chance to move from a life where subsistence living is the norm – to a life that allows them to realize their potential and to become supporting members of the greater community.”

COSI provides an awesome opportunity for students working to better their lives despite difficult situations.  Hopefully, this grant and others like it will continue to help underprivileged students to better their futures.

For more information on COSI contact Lincoln Wulf at lincoln.wulf@ppcc.edu

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