AURORA - Yamel Rios, a senior at Hinkley High School, stepped away from her 20-minute "interview" with a member of the university leadership team feeling stronger than ever about her plans to go to college.
"I really enjoyed it. The lady I was talking to was really cool," Rios said of Lilly Marks, Executive Vice Chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus and Vice President for Health Affairs for the CU System.
Although she hasn't settled on a college or a post-secondary major yet, Rios said, "I'm sure I want to go to college."
Marks and four other members of the university administrative team volunteered to do portfolio reviews -- essentially an interview with high school students about their interests and goals -- at Hinkley on Dec. 16. The students were members of teacher Greg Breidenbach's Post-Secondary Success class. He is a part of Goodwill Industries of Denver's career development program, which employs teachers in 26 metro Denver public high schools to help students chart a future beyond high school.
"I think the (interview exercise) is valuable for any student, regardless of how much experience or background they have, because it hones your skills in portraying yourself and selling yourself," Marks said.
The outing at Hinkley was part of the university's annual Giving Back Holiday Campaign, where faculty and staff are encouraged to volunteer for an hour or two for a worthy cause during the holiday season.
Also volunteering were Denise Kassebaum, dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Ralph Altiere, dean of the School of Pharmacy; Jane Schumaker, executive director and CEO of University Physicians, Inc.; and Neil Krauss, director of administration, Anschutz Medical Campus.
Kassebaum also volunteered as a portfolio reviewer at the Denver School of the Arts on Dec. 1. At both schools, "it's really fun to see the way the kids think," she said.
"It gives you a sense of satisfaction that you can reinforce and make them feel good about what they've done," Kassebaum added. "It's about self-esteem."
Breidenbach said the interviews augment his work in getting students thinking about post-secondary careers. He said that in many cases these are students who are the first in their families who will attend college.
"The message I'm hoping they get now is that their plans for after high school have to start as soon as possible," Breidenbach said. "I want to make them hit the ground running as soon as they graduate from high school."
Rios was among 80 Hinkley students who got to sit face-to-face with outside professionals and articulate their hopes and dreams for the future. Rios' brimmed with optimism after her interview with Marks.
"We really connected," she said. "She has a great personality. She was really easy to talk to."
(Photo: Volunteering as interviewers at Hinkley High School in Aurora were, from left, Denise Kassebaum, dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Ralph Altiere, dean of the School of Pharmacy; Lilly Marks, executive vice chancellor of the Anschutz Medical Campus and Vice President for Health Affairs for the CU System; Jane Schumaker, executive director and CEO of University Physicians, Inc.; and Neil Krauss, director of administration, Anschutz Medical Campus.)