Colorado State University Awarded $2 Million Grant to Support First-Generation, Lower-Income Students

Josh Chotiner never thought that he could go to college. After leaving his parents’ home at 16, Chotiner knew if he wanted to make something of himself, he was going to have to do it on his own.

Chotiner is one of 275 students supported by Colorado State University’s Academic Advancement Center, which has made the dream of completing college come true.

The Academic Advancement Center, a federal TRIO Student Support Services Program at Colorado State University, recently received a competitive, $2 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue programs that provide academic support to first-generation, low-income and disabled students earning their bachelor degrees.

Earning the ‘golden ticket’ to college

Following events that took place in 2006, Chotiner’s life changed completely. His mother, who devoted her life to Chotiner’s care and well-being, suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body and left her institutionalized. His father, who had become Chotiner’s sole provider, worked long hours and would often turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

“For a while, I held things together at home as best I could, taking care of schoolwork, chores and cooking for us,” Chotiner said. “But the duty to take care of myself and my father soon came to overwhelm me. I decided I could no longer do it, and I made the difficult decision to leave my home.”

During his senior year of high school, Chotiner knew that, if he was going to go to college, he would need to put forth extra effort to succeed.

“I spent hours after school and on weekends filling out scholarship and college applications and saving money to try to earn my golden ticket,” Chotiner said.

About the Academic Achievement Center

In 2008, Chotiner, whose family never went to college, was accepted to Colorado State University with the financial support of several scholarships – including the Denver Scholarship Foundation and the Daniels Fund – and he began his involvement with the Academic Achievement Center.

The Academic Achievement Center, one of the 946 federally funded TRIO Student Support Services nationwide, provides support and assistance to low-income, first-generation and disabled students who are in need of academic coaching to complete college. The TRIO programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, are pre-college outreach and service programs designed to identify and provide academic services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The AAC receives additional funding from the CSU Division of Student Affairs and from Student Financial Services.

At Colorado State, the Academic Advancement Center offers a variety of free services for its participants, including academic counseling, tutoring, study and life skills workshops, career planning and a peer mentoring and advising program. The AAC encourages participants to become engaged in organizations, leadership and Study Abroad programs. The center also awards 25 supplemental financial awards to first-year Pell Grant recipients.

Program assists with higher graduation rates

“Students who participate in the AAC persist and graduate at rates higher than the overall CSU persistence and graduation rates,” said Andrea Reeve, director of the AAC.

“I would not be where I am today if it was not for this place,” Chotiner said. “The center has provided me with everything from top-notch counseling, tutoring and development workshops to helping me book my plane ticket to France, where I am now studying abroad.”

Since its arrival on campus in 1978, the Academic Advancement Center has served more than 6,500 students. The center also works closely with several on-campus organizations such as Student Financial Services, the Access Center, the Center for Advising and Student Achievement, Resources for Disabled Students and the Division of Student Affairs.

“Without the partnerships that the Academic Advancement Center has with these organizations, what we do here would not be possible,” Reeve said.

Josh gives back to the AAC by serving as a peer mentor and a French and psychology tutor. “When I return from France, I hope to continue giving back to the AAC,” Chotiner said. “I will miss this place dearly during my Study Abroad experience. Yet, it is in large part due to them that I was even able to go.”