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College Works offers free support for students and University offices

The program is adapting to provide online learning and working opportunities for incoming students.

By Scott Bergman

April 21, 2020

Students walking up JSSB steps.Transitioning to college from high school can be overwhelming for students; there is new vocabulary to learn, forms to complete, offices to find and many unfamiliar faces. The College Works program can help. The program typically allows students to spend the summer taking on-campus courses and connecting with faculty, staff and fellow learners — while getting paid.

By partnering with Denver and Adams Counties’ equity-based summer youth-employment programs, Metropolitan State University of Denver provides incoming freshmen with summer jobs in offices across campus at no cost to the hosting department. Participating youth also attend weekly college-skills sessions and work with peer mentors. Participants usually keep their summer job through the fall semester, allowing them to maintain connections and financial stability. It is a true win-win – University offices get additional help, and participants improve their odds of higher-education success.    

To adapt to the impacts of COVID-19, College Works is developing a 100% online option for students in need of the program’s support. Staff members are considering options for students to receive a stipend to attend summer classes and college-prep sessions, and the team is also seeking campus departments that can offer virtual work opportunities. For more information on hosting a College Works student in your department in person or online over the summer, please contact Scott Bergman, coordinator of Summer Bridge Programming.

“College Works has allowed our department to work with students, keep on them staff and have them trained before the start of the semester,” said Garrett Spradlin, assistant director of Admissions for Visitor Services and Recruitment Communications. “They become knowledgeable about campus and connected before they even start classes. It’s amazing to see them grow.”

“The College Works program affords us a special opportunity to welcome students to the MSU Denver community,” added Juan Gallegos, director, Center for Multicultural Excellence and Inclusion. “Participants earn much more than a paycheck. ... They are also building relationships and connections that serve them well throughout their academic journey.”

Additional support includes helping participants complete financial-aid applications, guiding them through the billing and refund processes, buying books, academic advising, locating campus buildings, answering questions and more. That support continues through the academic year, as peer mentors check in weekly with the participants and share information about Tutoring Center Academic Skills workshops, scholarships, tax assistance and more.

 “My experience in College Works was immensely helpful because I spent time on campus, I was given information about different resources and I got to meet a lot of people that I can count on if I need support,” said participant Nora Quiroz. “Once school started, things became more stressful, but I already knew where to go and who to talk to.”

Since it was developed in 2016, College Works has served 77 students, 53 of whom are registered for spring 2020 (a 69% overall retention rate). Of all participants, 86% are Pell-eligible, 73% identify as first-generation students, 92% are students of color and 18% are undocumented. College Works alumni are placed on Early Alert every semester so the program team can provide proactive outreach, and participants are encouraged to connect with each other and share their struggles and successes.

Topics: Hiring, Student Success

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