Two-thirds of the Cortez Middle School eighth-grade class will take a step toward going to college this month.
About 110 students will visit Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction and Colorado State University in Fort Collins this month. Half visited last week over spring break, and the second group visits this week.
“It was fun and we got to learn a lot,” eighth-grader Alex Abeyta said of the trip. “More kids in future generations should go.”
Students toured both universities and talked with current college students during the trip. They also visited the Denver Zoo and Aquarium and Boondocks Fun Center.
It’s the sixth straight year the middle school staffers have organized such a field trip, said teacher Jennifer Bullock, who was a chaperone on the trip.
“It’s a grand finale to eighth grade,” Bullock said. “We’re showing kids that (college) is a possibility for them.”
Eighth-grader Walker Hatch said he heard about Greek life opportunities and different types of classes people can take at the universities. He said it was interesting to know that you can go to college even if you haven’t decided on a major.
Students Jacob Reedy and Mykal Bueno said the campuses were big and spread out. Reedy noticed that there were different buildings for math, science and history.
Bueno said there were lots of coffee shops to help students stay awake. She also thought it was interesting that college students can be undecided.
“I like how nobody is left out,” she said. “It was good to hear directly from college students.”
Reedy said he discovered things he didn’t know before about college life, such as the ability to choose your own schedule and study a variety of specialized subjects.
“We learned more about the future,” he said.
Bullock said she could see the wheels turning in students’ minds as they asked college students candid questions about the experience. The $220-per-student fee is a good investment, she added.
“It’s just a phenomenal experience,” she said.
Montezuma-Cortez High School is a CSU Alliance Partnership school, so if students graduate from M-CHS and are accepted to CSU, they are guaranteed a $16,000 scholarship over four years.
Teacher Pam Cox also chaperoned the trip. She said it’s a meaningful experience for teachers, too. They get the rare opportunity to spend time with their students outside of a school setting, Cox said.
“We get to bond with our kids,” she said.
CSU offers summer academic camps, some of which are free for CMS students through the Alliance Partnership, Cox said. Students who visit CSU during the spring trips are more likely to attend summer camps in Fort Collins because they’ve already seen the campus and are more familiar with the area, Cox said.
In a similar trip, two CMS special needs students, along with two instructors, visited a transitional program in Durango before meeting up with the rest of the group on the Front Range. It’s the first year special needs students have taken such a trip.
A transitional program helps people age 18 to 21 with learning or developmental disabilities learn life skills to prepare them for adult life, said CMS teacher Chase Wesley.
“We wanted to get our kids out there traveling to different places and seeing different things,” Wesley said.
The students learned about job skills and money handling, Wesley said. They also strengthened their situational awareness abilities by learning to use a GPS map on a mobile phone, he said.
“It was good to see them go out and experience something they hadn’t before,” Wesley said. “They’ve made me very proud.”
Bullock and Cox said they often hear after the university visits that middle-schoolers want to commit to going to college. Bullock said the visits help them realize that college is different — it’s not just four more years of high school.
“This gives (students) a more tangible idea of what college looks like,” Bullock said. “It’s really exciting. ... We’re very blessed.”