Eric Lam, like many DSF Scholars, hopes to be the first person in his family to complete college when he graduates from the University of Colorado Boulder. Now halfway through his first year in college, Eric is well on his way to achieving this dream. Though, when he looks back to his early high school years, Eric did not consider college an option for his future. That was, of course, before he discovered Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF).
“I truly thought that college was not an option for me,” says Eric. “I know I was not alone in this assumption about my future. Growing up, many of my friends knew they would not be able to afford to go to college, and did not have the resources to find alternatives to help them continue their education.”
Then, in his senior year of high school, Eric discovered room 112 at Abraham Lincoln High School. Located in room 112 is the DSF Future Center, where Eric discovered that a pathway to college was possible for him.
“I spent most of my high school free time in the Future Center,” Eric recalls.
Although he usually came to the DSF Future Center by himself, he always found a friend once he walked through the door. Eric quickly began to realize that the Future Center was much more than just another classroom in the school: It was a place he could go to surround himself with positive influences and resources, while staying motivated to forge a path to college.
“In the Future Center, I met my DSF College Advisors, Ms. Kepes and Mr. Antezana Alba. Not only did they help me get into college and make it financially possible, but as a first-generation college student, they helped me better understand what to expect when I get to campus.”
The work of DSF College Advisors is happening in 14 Future Centers serving 21 Denver Public Schools. As Eric describes, DSF College Advisors provide students with a way to make the daunting college application process a bit easier. Ms. Kepes and Mr. Antezana Alba, like all DSF College Advisors, offer college-going guidance, tools, and resources to help students stay on track on their path to college. As a bridge from high school to college, Advisors provide support with the financial aid process, determining college fit, applying for scholarships, and much more.
Eric said the emotional support provided by Ms. Kepes and Mr. Antezana Alba kept him motivated in spite of the challenges he faced throughout the college application process. Simply put, “they were always there,” he says.
Eric has also leaned on the friends he has made along the way, many of which are DSF Scholars. He finds it easy to make friends with other Scholars on campus at the University of Colorado Boulder because they understand the hard work, determination, and sacrifice it takes to get to college.
“The DSF community on campus is a great way to meet new people and make more connections,” Eric says.
DSF helps foster this sense of community among Scholars by providing a space for them to study and interact while they are on campus. Eric says that the community fostered by DSF “acts as a safe, comfortable place since I know there will be others that are in a similar situation to mine. I can ask them for help or advice.”
For bigger questions, Scholars at the University of Colorado Boulder turn to DSF’s Campus Contact. Through DSF’s partnerships with 31 technical and community colleges, and universities, DSF Campus Contacts ensure students stay on track to graduate, providing the first line of support to advance DSF’s mission of helping students complete their certificate or degree.
Though he has yet to decide on a major—he is currently leaning towards economics—Eric already has some sage advice for his fellow Scholars. He knows he is not alone among DSF Scholars in facing challenges on the journey through college.
“Trust me when I say that it is okay that your first year did not go as planned,” Eric shares. “Things happen and college can be difficult, but all that matters is that you are in college and you are doing the best with what you have.”
Eric says he would not be where he is without the generous support of DSF. DSF provides necessary resources at every step of the process, from exploring college options in the DSF Future Center to walking across the commencement stage with a college certificate or degree in hand.
“I cannot express how thankful I am for DSF because it helped me decide to go to college and offered so much assistance through college advising and financial aid,” Eric says.
Through his experiences connecting with other DSF Scholars on his journey to and through college, Eric says he does not consider his story unique. This is why DSF plays a key role in inspiring and empowering Denver’s students to pursue a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree. Every day, more and more students are realizing that not only is college an option—often times, it is the best path to build a brighter future for themselves and their family. At DSF, our goal is to make Eric and his classmates’ stories common. DSF envisions a future where Denver’s students, especially first-generation students like Eric, to consider graduating from college the norm—not the exception.