Ready, Set, College Surprises First-gen Students With Laptops, College Advice

Nearly 75 first-generation college students left with the tools they need for their first days of college—including a laptop and mobile hotspot.

These students, the first in their family to attend higher education, learned about how to navigate college—from financial aid and picking a major to having confidence in class—at Ready, Set, College on Saturday at History Colorado.

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Students at Ready, Set, College receiving laptops and other school supplies.

Ready, Set, College is a celebration of the hard work of first-generation college students and provides the tools and resources to prepare them for what they’ll experience in college.

“We got a lot of great information,” said Aleighya Dawkins, who will start at the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall, adding that advice on how to better manage her time will be most helpful.

The program was originally created by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation’s 2015 Leadership Denver class. Wanting to see the event carry on, they pitched it to another Leadership Foundation class that takes on a community project—Impact Denver.

With 74 percent of jobs in Colorado requiring some sort of education after high school, “it’s exactly these kinds of programs we need to use in order to close that gap and improve our education attainment,” said Leadership Denver 2015 alum Mark Cavanaugh.

For De’Andre Carr, who will start his freshman year at Adams State University in the fall, making sure he reaches out when he needs a hand and “not trying to think of it as on my own,” was his biggest takeaway from the day.

Keynotes from two first-generation college students, former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and Denver City Councilman Chris Herndon—bookended the day to inspire students.

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Chris Herndon

“For whatever you’re about to embark on in life, you are ready to tackle it,” Herndon told the students.

“Being a part of Ready, Set, College made us incredibly proud to be members of the Denver community. It is very clear from meeting these first-generation college students that our future is bright,” said Sean Smith, an Impact Denver team member and director of The Broe Group. “We were able to impart a little bit of wisdom, and provide the physical benefit of a computer to each of the students.”

The Impact Denver team included Erica Bertschy, assistant director of donor relations and stewardship at the University of Denver; Allison Craig, group marketing manager for destination marketing at Vail Resorts; Sara Crocker, communications manager of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; Margaret Dioguardi, Impact Denver project team coach and senior consultant at Prosono; Andrew Grimaldo, construction manager of Rocksol Constructing Group; Chelsea Magin, director of product development for Sharklet Technologies, Inc.; Tracey Nilson, program manager of the Colorado BioScience Association; Smith; and Jason Thomas, director of correspondence and experiential learning for the Office of Gov. John W. Hickenlooper.

The event was made possible by the following sponsors: The Lillis Foundation, LONG Building Technologies, Trautman & Shreve, Anadarko Petroleum Company, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Butler Rents, History Colorado, Mobile Beacon, Office Depot and PCs for People.

Inspiring Leadership Foundation alumni to work together to make a difference is a major goal of the organization, said Alumni Engagement Manager and Leadership Denver 2015 alumna Elizabeth Norris.

“Our goal at the Leadership Foundation is to create all generations of leaders and help them through their journey. To see this happen—the collaboration between two different programs of the Leadership Foundation working to make an impact—is exactly what we want to see,” she said.

Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Denver Metro Chamber.