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Galvanizing Tomorrow’s Civic Leaders: Day of Action Virtual College Access Panel Discussions

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By: Kathleen Ferrick, Program Coordinator, CCESL

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For the past 8 years, the Day of Action college access event has built connections between the University of Denver (DU) community and Denver Public Schools (DPS) elementary students and families. The event was founded to begin the conversation about college with underrepresented students as early as possible, rather than waiting until high school. A large portion of the students who attend will be first generation college students, rendering the event their first exposure to higher education. 

Since 2012, Day of Action has brought hundreds of elementary school students and their family members to campus for a day of interactive activities. With support from over 100 DU student volunteers, Day of Action families participate in workshops focused on different aspects of college life – from exploring extracurricular activities, choosing a major, learning about scholarships, and much more. Parents also have the opportunity to get their most pressing college questions answered during panel conversations offered in both English and Spanish. Throughout the day, the level of excitement and enthusiasm on behalf of volunteers and participants alike is palpable. To foster an inclusive environment, Day of Action is committed to ensuring students and families know they belong. 

While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made hosting Day of Action 2020 impossible, the planning committee and school partners sought to extend as many resources as possible to DPS communities. The committee organized virtual parent panels in both English and Spanish focused on demystifying the college experience, as well as sharing information relevant to the pandemic. Panelists included DU staff, alums and advocates who shared their expertise about financing college, tips for supporting first generation college students in navigating the application process, support for undocumented students, and advice for finding inclusive communities for students of color. 

Among the amazing group of panelists was Day of Action’s founder, Julio Alas, who spoke on both panels about the incredible value of the support parents offer their children as they pursue higher education, regardless of whether they attended college themselves or not. DU’s Assistant Director of Scholarships, Amy Folse, encouraged parents to familiarize themselves with different sources of aid early, as well as provided resources for parents to review. In addition, the panels included insights regarding the physical and mental health implications of COVID-19. DU alum and Harvard Medical School student, Daniel González, provided advice for preventing exposure to the virus and how to pursue care if needed. Therapist and mental health advocate, Mariana Gonzalez Ramos, also promoted the importance of self-care for parents managing increased stress due to the pandemic. 

The dedication and passion demonstrated by each of the panelists fostered an incredibly supportive virtual space. Parents who weren’t able to attend the live event are able to access the recordings here, as well as a host of other Day of Action resources that will be published on the Day of Action 2020 event website. The planning committee is grateful to have had the opportunity to continue Day of Action’s legacy of responsive and equitable college access programming during this unprecedented time.