Supporting Every Student for Career and College Success

Oct. 25, 2019
Students from North High School graduation

Dear Team DPS,

The power of a great education is that it opens many doors for our children, giving them the power to choose their future path. Knowing that 74% of all Colorado jobs require education beyond high school — like college, trade school, an apprenticeship or military service — it’s critically important that we ensure students walk off our commencement stage with all of those doors open and with our graduates ready to stride confidently down the path they choose.

In our high schools, we’ve been focused on providing access to hands-on experiences and college-level courses, to help students develop essential skills through rigorous coursework.

Over the past decade, these efforts have been paying off for our kids. In 2007, the DPS four-year graduation rate was 38.7%. For the DPS Class of 2018, it was 70%. And nearly 50% that class went on to college after graduation.

Across Colorado, 53% of students attending two-year colleges and 20% of students attending four-year colleges require remedial courses — which means they weren’t academically ready for college when they got there. Since 2014, we’ve increased the number of our students who are ready when they start college from 38% to 61% — an increase of 23 percentage points. Being academically ready for college from day one and not needing remedial classes greatly increases a student’s chance of successfully completing college — and it saves them money at the same time.

In DPS, every student has multiple options to graduate career- and college-ready. And the path to a bright future looks different for every student — from work-based apprenticeships to military service, industry training or college — so having a great support system of teachers and specialized service providers is also a key factor in making sure every student thrives in our district.

Esmeralda Rodriguez (Montbello High School Class of ‘08) is a shining example of a DPS graduate who has gone on to do great things. Not only was she a first-generation college graduate, she now works with the Denver Scholarship Foundation as a college advisor for high school students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College. She shared some reflections with us this week about how opportunities she experienced at Montbello helped her find her path:

Working with high school students now, I see how incredibly valuable it is to have resources like DPS does, such as concurrent enrollment, internships, and even hands-on career development or on-the-job opportunities throughout high school, which enrich students’ overall school experience and steady their decision-making process about life after graduation. I know, because programs like that at Montbello helped me find my path toward my future.

Toward the end of my sophomore year, I discovered the TRiO Upward Bound Program with Colorado State University (CSU). This program single-handedly changed the way I viewed myself and the possibility of attending college. My self-confidence grew out of interactions with other students like me, who were hoping to be the first in their families to go to college. As a result of the relationships and support, I became more assertive and willing to speak for myself. During that time I became a National Honors Society member and made the Montbello Warriors volleyball team. The seemingly impossible became possible, and the experiences I gained along the way opened my eyes to a much wider world than I never knew existed.

These days, I share with my students the lessons I’ve learned along the way, like not giving up when there are difficulties staring back at you. I tell them how difficult it was for me to apply for college, hoping I could secure scholarships so that my parents would not have to absorb so much financial debt and stress. I tell them that failure sometimes comes with this process, as well as success. I did not get a much-coveted scholarship I thought I was qualified for. But my DSF college advisor looked at me and simply said, “Do not let this get in your way!” Ultimately, I earned a Daniels Fund Scholarship and other awards that helped pay for my education at CSU, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work along with an Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies Minor.

I encourage you to read her full story here. Hearing about the successes of alumni like Esme inspires and energizes me … to strengthen the power of the education we provide and to continue to open the doors to a limitless future for our students.

Warm regards,