Denver Scholarship Foundation Paves the Way for First-Generation College Students


As a first-generation student, Rhina Serrano-Zetino's dream was significant, but she was aware of the hurdles ahead. Serrano-Zetino's journey reflects the challenges many first-gen students face, but with the support of the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF), she found a pathway to higher education.

Denver Scholarship Foundation Paves the Way for First-Generation College Students
(Photo : UNSPLASH / Caleb Hernandez Belmonte)

Navigating the Dream of Higher Education

Being the first in her family to pursue higher education, Serrano-Zetino felt the weight of the unknown. "There's a lot of nerves knowing that nobody in my family has gone through this," she shared. However, her aspirations found a guide in Miguel Banuelos-Garcia, a DSF college advisor at John F. Kennedy High School. Together, they navigated the complexities of college preparation.

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Denver Scholarship Foundation: Bridging Aspirations and Resources

DSF stands as a beacon for students like Serrano-Zetino. Recognized as the "financial aid experts in Denver," DSF strives to make college a possibility for all Denver Public Schools (DPS) students. Through a multi-faceted approach, the foundation provides crucial tools and resources, acting as a liaison between talent and opportunities.

Need-Based Scholarships: A Key to Inclusivity

While only seven percent of college students nationally receive scholarships, DSF has awarded nearly $5 million in scholarships to 1,871 DPS students in the 2021-2022 academic year. The foundation's need-based scholarships break down financial barriers, ensuring that any DPS graduate is eligible. This inclusivity is vital in fostering diversity in higher education.

Future Centers: Personalized Guidance

Fifteen DPS high schools boast Future Centers, where students receive personalized guidance from DSF college advisors. These centers become essential hubs for navigating the often complex landscape of college applications and financial aid processes. For students without a dedicated Future Center, school advisors offer similar resources, emphasizing accessibility for all.

Financial Aid Advisement: Maximizing Postsecondary Opportunities

DSF's impact extends beyond scholarships. The foundation provides resources for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Colorado Application for State Financial Aid (CASFA). By aiding in FAFSA submission and offering guidance on gathering required documents, DSF ensures that financial aid is accessible. Importantly, the foundation dispels myths about financial aid commitment, emphasizing that applying opens doors without obligations.

Empowering Generations: Transformative Impact of College Attainment

Diana Madriz, DSF's Assistant Director of College Access, highlights the transformative impact of college attainment on families. For first-generation students, going to college can spark generational change. College attainment changes outlooks and creates new standards for what's possible, breaking cycles of limited opportunities.

Rhina Serrano-Zetino's Journey: A Testament to DSF's Impact

As Serrano-Zetino prepares to graduate high school, her journey embodies the success DSF envisions for every student. Engaged in extracurricular activities and aiming for international business studies at Colorado State University, she symbolizes the potential unlocked through DSF's support.

Looking Forward: A Record Number of Scholarships

The impact of DSF is tangible. In the current academic year, the foundation awarded a record number of scholarships to more than 2,070 DPS graduates. This not only reflects the growing desire for higher education among students but also showcases DSF's commitment to meeting the evolving needs of the community.

Denver Scholarship Foundation emerges as a catalyst for change, breaking down barriers for first-generation students and empowering dreams. By providing not just financial aid but also guidance and support, DSF transforms aspirations into tangible success stories. As more students pursue higher education, DSF stands as a guiding light, unlocking the doors to a brighter future for Denver's aspiring youth.

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