Future Center Fills the Gap for First Generation Students Navigating to College

The Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) Future Center at John F. Kennedy High School (JFK) is decorated with college pennants, posters, and whiteboards adorned with flyers for upcoming scholarship deadlines. Here, students have access to binders full of information about in-state and out-of-state colleges and universities, magazines and posters for career inspiration, and computers to research scholarship opportunities. Most importantly, students come to the Future Center to work with DSF College Advisors who can walk them through every step of the college application process.

Karina Garcia, a senior at JFK who will graduate in May, is a frequent visitor to the Future Center.

“I have always been interested in college,” said Karina. “At the beginning of the school year, I heard people talking about the Future Center, and I knew I had to go there.”

Karina is on track to become one of the first in her family to attend college. She spends her off periods on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the Future Center with Ms. Emily, DSF College Advisor. When her schedule allows, she also visits the Future Center after the last bell of the school day. Through the hours of work together, Ms. Emily has helped Karina create a roadmap to and through college for herself.

As the first step on the path, Ms. Emily worked with Karina to research colleges, and gave her guidance to help find her best college fit. Together, they determined which schools would help Karina succeed socially, financially, and academically. Karina narrowed down her top choices to the University of Denver and the University of Northern Colorado.

Next, Karina created a personal statement, which is an essay that students create to illustrate their interest in a particular college, and to submit with scholarship applications. With Ms. Emily’s help, they perfected the statement, including grammar, mechanics, content, and messaging,

“After narrowing down my college choices and writing my personal statement, we moved on to the FAFSA. Sometimes I procrastinate, so Ms. Emily was there to remind me that I had to fill it out,” Karina said.

Now that Karina has submitted her FAFSA, she is working directly with Ms. Emily to research and apply to additional colleges, or safety schools, and scholarships.

“Although my parents are very supportive of what I want to do, they do not know much about scholarships or applying to college. It is very helpful to have the DSF College Advisors to guide you and push you when necessary. Most schools in the district do not have Future Centers, so I know we are very fortunate,” Karina said.

Ms. Emily says that the Future Center at JFK fills what is often seen as the last step in supporting the whole student in high school.

“DSF College Advisors are essential at JFK so that every student has a chance to go to college—not just the students who have parents at home who know how to navigate through the systems, or the students who have siblings to walk them through it,” said Ms. Emily.