AURORA | Navigating the path to college — and figuring out how to pay for it — can be challenging for any student. It’s especially difficult if you go to a public high school that doesn’t have a lot of resources, or if you’re a first-generation college student.
Six Rangeview High School graduates are trying to make the process easier for future generations of Aurora Public School students with a nonprofit they’ve created, The Fourteener Fund.
“After going through (the public school system) and going through hardships in college, we wanted to improve that process,” said Bruce Ahn, one of the fund’s creators.
“Our mission is to prepare kids socially and professionally to succeed,” he said.
Along with the other five founders, Ahn graduated from Rangeview in 2014. He went to Cornell University and now works at the software company Wix.
It wasn’t until he was at Cornell that Ahn realized he hadn’t been prepared well for college at APS, an experience the other founders echoed.
“That’s not because teachers didn’t care and it’s not because there’s apathy,” Ahn said. “It was simply because there’s a lack of funding and a lack of targeted focus on teaching on college readiness and career readiness specifically.”
Launched in February, the fund has ambitious goals. It aims to level the playing field by giving APS students more information about the college experience, something that students from private schools or wealthier public school districts have more access to.
“Growing up I didn’t have many people to talk to about what college would be like,” said founder Andy Stockinger, who attended the University of Denver.
His freshman year was a bit of a rough experience, he said, and he hopes he can share what he’s learned with incoming students.
Along with information about the college process, the fund also wants to give advice about how to prepare for their careers. Founder Nate Bradley, who attended the University of Miami and now works for the City and County of Denver, said that when he started college he didn’t know anything about how to network.
He figured things out along the way, but “the idea of building professional relationships could have absolutely helped me,” he said.
Much like the transition from high school to college, the transition from college to the workforce can be difficult.
“What does it mean to go from an academic, someone that got super good grades, how do you take that and make money?” Ahn asked.
The fund ultimately hopes to be able to go into Aurora high schools and give workshops about college and career readiness. The pandemic has limited its ability to go into schools, but Stockinger said they hope to have programs developed by next school year.
The fund also has a scholarship for students, and gave its first scholarship of $1,000 to a 2020 Rangeview graduate who’s now a freshman at Colorado State University. It’s currently in the process of fundraising for next spring’s scholarship.
“We’ve all really enjoyed giving back,” Stockinger said.