Roaring Fork School’s PreCollegiate program helps first-generation college students adapt |

Roaring Fork School’s PreCollegiate program helps first-generation college students adapt

Kelsy Been
Special to The Aspen Times
The Roaring Fork High School PreCollegiate class of 2020 gets together for a photo opportunity. The PreCollegiate program helps first-generation college students prepare for their challenges.
Courtesy photo

The Roaring Fork PreCollegiate program joined educational institutions around the country last week to recognize the success of first-generation college students and the unique challenges they face.

Nov. 8 marked the 55th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Higher Education Act, which has helped millions of first-generation, low-income students graduate from college. The anniversary was noted through the First-Generation College Celebration.

The program has helped numerous students in the Roaring Fork School District, which includes Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. PreCollegiate works to identify promising first-generation students starting in middle school; motivate them to pursue higher education; and make sure students have the information, resources, and relevant life skills they need to successfully complete high school and transition into the post-secondary program of their choice. Currently, the program is serving over 300 middle and high school students throughout the district and over 200 current college students.

Being first generation means different things to every PreCollegiate student and alumni. Current college student and Basalt High School graduate Oswaldo Morales likened people such as himself as trailblazers.

“I use this responsibility as motivation to continue to set a good example for the next generation of first-gen students,” Morales said.

When asked what it means to her to be first-generation, PreCollegiate student and Roaring Fork High School 10th grader Katie G. said, “Being a first-generation student can be hard because everything is on your own most of the time. I always feel as if I need to have good grades and be a good student for myself and for my parents since they never got this opportunity. At the same time, it is also a journey because you never know what’s happening, you just kinda go for it, and hope for the best.”

Precollegiate alum and current Colorado State University student Gabriela Santana said participating in the program creates a sense of accomplishment.

“One big thing for me is being able to defy the odds that are stacked against us,” she said. “College is not necessarily structured for first-generation students and being able to come and succeed in this environment means a lot. It also means making my family proud and taking this opportunity to help them in the future.”

The COVID pandemic has dramatically impacted the process of applying to and attending college. PreCollegiate has remained committed to trying to support the transitioning first-year college students as they adjust to an experience that is very different from what they envisioned.

“College may be forever altered by the pandemic,” said PreCollegiate Director David Smith. “We believe that now more than ever the voices of first-generation students are needed on college campuses across the country to mold and shape the future of higher education.”

Learn about how to support PreCollegiate by volunteering or through monetary donations at their website:, or by visiting the PreCollegiate Facebook page:

Kelsy Been is the public information officer for the Roaring Fork School District.


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