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Aurora Public Schools Foundation wants to make college dreams come true for their students

Community partnerships help students obtain college admissions and find scholarships

AURORA, Colorado — Aurora Public Schools Foundation wants to level the playing field in the highly competitive college admission process for students in Aurora Public Schools.

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“We are wanting to provide equal opportunities for all the students,” said the foundation’s Executive Director Jill Ruiter. “The students of Aurora come from a really diverse demographic, over 130 countries, over 160 languages and some of them are first-generation students.”

Credit: Byron Reed

In 2014, the district started installing College and Career centers in some of their high schools. The mission was to provide students with information on college applications, financial aid, and scholarships to help them pursue their goals after graduation. 

“It’s a lot to navigate, so to have somebody come alongside of you, who knows exactly what you need to do and can help create a road map for you, is so incredibly helpful for our students,” Ruiter said.

Recent Rangeview High School graduate Hana Fentahun plans on attending George Washington University this fall. Her first year’s tuition is $75,000. 

Credit: Byron Reed

Fentahun is a first-generation college student after her parents moved here from Ethiopia. She says her parents wanted their daughters to go to college, get a good job and be financially stable.

“My parents initially came to the United States for me and my sister to get a better education, so it’s really important for them for us to have a successful future,” said Fentahun.

“I ended up getting almost $70,000 [in scholarships] for this freshman year,” said Fentahun.  “Applying for everything, I don’t think I would have figured it out on my own, so it’s a blessing that [they’re] here to help and support us find those ways."

Credit: Byron Reed

“It does level that playing field to where students can apply to more schools,” said the school’s College and Career Center Coordinator Betty Gessesse. “It gives students opportunities and [they] have someone there that’s an advisor that can help guide students on how to receive outside funds.”

Those funds are made available through partnerships with businesses like Wells Fargo Bank, who over the last year have donated a total of $150,000. 

“Since 2018, Wells Fargo has donated to and partnered with the Aurora Public Schools Foundation to help build College and Career Centers across the city,” said Derrick Fuller, Wells Fargo district manager for Aurora. “Higher education costs are a large burden on today’s students, and Wells Fargo believes in APS Foundation’s mission to help them afford their college dreams.”

“We do know that for every $1 that we invest into a college and career center, we’re unlocking $100 worth of potential scholarships for students,” Ruiter said.

Credit: Byron Reed

The APS Foundation now operates centers at four APS high schools and has a goal to build centers at two additional high schools. The centers have played an essential role in boosting APS graduation rates and helping students earn scholarships. Through the 2017-18 school year, the centers helped students secure more than $56 million in scholarship funds to help students like Fentahun go to college.

Credit: Byron Reed

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