by Nick Smith, staff writer

Education is a boon to a successful community and Pikes Peak Community College knows that well. The Dakota Promise Program (DPP) is an initiative created by PPCC to make college more accessible for high school graduates from the southeast.

The now 2-year-old program partners with Harrison School District 2, Atlas Prep High School, and James Irwin Charter High School, offering high school graduates full-ride coverage of on-campus tuition, fees, and books, as well as academic support while they are at PPCC.

The goal of the program is to close the equity gap in higher education: “We aspired to eliminate the dinner table conversations about whether a family can afford college for their son or daughter,” PPCC President Dr. Lance Bolton said.

In its first year, DPP has increased the college-going rates in Harrison District 2 by approximately 50%.  This semester, PPCC has welcomed an additional 136 DPP scholars and held a total of 28 DPP Success Saturday Sessions since the fall 2020 semester. And there’s no sign of it slowing down. The program’s current mission is to expand its reach to other districts in Colorado Springs such as D11 schools Mitchell HS and Palmer HS.

“Without Dakota Promise, I would not have been able to start my education, or obtain my associated degree without going into loads of student debt, as I am not rich,” said DP Ambassador Velez, “During my time in this program, I was able to work and save money for my bachelor’s degree, as I did not have to worry about any financial obligations during my two years here at PPCC with Dakota.”

But money isn’t the only role that plays into a quality education. That’s why the program also provides the scholar with a DPP Coach. A DPP Coach guides students throughout their time in school.

Selinea Moore-Allen is the lead Dakota Promise Coach who works with students to help navigate them through the college experience. “We are here to mentor them and guide them to PPCC Academic Success,” Moore-Allen said.

To guide students toward success, coaches offer mentoring and community. Students meet regularly with coaches and attend various workshops to help with resources. “The program offers a sense of community and support from its team, and everyone who is a part of the program genuinely cares about each and every one of its scholars. I have been offered this support and sense of community firsthand,” said Velez.

As the program continues, PPCC hopes to encourage more and more high-school graduates to go to college and pursue their interests and talents. “The program has your best interest at heart and wants to help you reach your academic goals without making you feel like you have any burden… Dakota Promise tries to make students feel less alone throughout their college experience,” said DPP Ambassador Mimi Smith.

“We cannot say enough about the commitment of all of the Dakota Promise coaches and their dedication to the success of our students. Several Dakota Promise Scholars did not think college was a possibility for them until this opportunity came along. We look forward to the continued growth of the program,” said Vice President of PPCC Jacquelyn Gaiters-Jordan.

Find more information about the Dakota Promise Program here.