COLORADO SPRINGS — A new program in Harrison School District 2, Atlas Prep High School, and James Irwin Charter High School is making college more accessible for students.
The Dakota Promise Program provides a two-year, full-ride scholarship to all qualifying seniors who apply for and are accepted by Pikes Peak Community College. The scholarship pays up to $5,000 a year for tuition, fees, and books.
"I saw the opportunity to go to college debt-free so I just took it," said Christina Pandolfi, Dakota Promise Ambassador.
The program has made a huge difference for students like Pandolfi who may not have the means to attend college.
"I am the oldest of five children so I knew if I wanted to go to college, I would have to make my own way," said Pandolfi.
She's now majoring in Accounting at Pikes Peak Community College with the help of her success coaches.
"Having that resource available to be like hey I'm struggling with this, I've tried everything I know is really nice," said Pandolfi.
"We guide them and navigate them through the college experience so they can have leadership skills and resources to bring back into the community," said Selinea Moore-Allen, Dakota Promise Coach. "We are providing them with an opportunity that they may not have had before. Not all of the students who come out of Harrison School District 2 are able to afford tuition so we are offering a debt-free option for them to go to college."
For students, the coaching provides extra help in a new environment.
"We try to give them the resources as students as we were. Tell them what made it easier for us, being transparent with them about not passing every class, and what happens if they fail," said Andre Guy, Dakota Promise Coach.
It's a program helping to get more students into college and break down barriers.
"We can identify those students who have that 2.2 GPA who haven't made their minds up if they're going to a four-year university, military, etc," said Woodrow Longmire, Director of College, Career, and Readiness at Harrison School District 2. "It does not discriminate, you can be socially economically on the high list or the low list. This program is for anyone who wants to get a college degree."
It's the second year for the Dakota Promise Program, and Longmire says they've been working to get more students involved.
"We've been working on that throughout this summer. We went out, got a couple of grants to help get some transitional liaisons to reach back, grab those students, and walk them through the process. I'm happy to say we got about 61 through this summer," said Longmire.
"Our goal for PPCC and the Dakota Promise Program is to increase the number of Harrison School District students who apply here and we've reached that goal," said Moore-Allen.
"Just do it, just walk into it with an open mind. There are a lot of people who are willing to help you and hold your hand on this journey," said Pandolfi.
Anyone interested in joining the Dakota Promise Program can find more information here.