New scholarship program offers free college to Harrison District 2 students


COLORADO SPRINGS — These students have their eyes set on a bright future.

“I really want to be an immigration lawyer,” said Angelica Palacios, a senior at Harrison High School.

“I want to go into aerospace to be a pilot,” said Damien Matthews, a senior at Harrison High School.

Now, thanks to a new scholarship, students who graduate from Sierra High School and Harrison High School will be able to go to Pikes Peak Community College for two years, free.

“The Dakota Foundation is going to sustain it for three years, and then as a district, we are determining ways and fundraising ways to make sure that it’s sustainable, so any student whoever graduates from our schools will have the same opportunity,” said Wendy Birhanzel, superintendent of Harrison School District 2.

This year’s seniors thought it was too good to be true.

“What’s the catch? What’s the hold up? There has to be some catch. And so, we’ve clarified, ‘no, your tuition, your fee, your books, transportation will be paid,'” Birhanzel said.

It’s a big deal for many students, especially for those who will be the first in their family to go to college.

“I felt like it was a big weight off my shoulder because for a while I’d been worried about how I will pay for college, worried about signing up for different scholarships,” said Ramsey Whitaker, a senior at Sierra High School.

“It was just shocking to be able to see Harrison is giving their students an opportunity to succeed their dreams and be able to pursue what they want to do in life,” Palacios said.

Harrison School District 2 said this new scholarship will lead to a higher college acceptance and attendance rate in the community.

“We always say, ‘everyone can go to college,’ but that’s not a reality because there are barriers such as financial barriers that now this scholarship will take out of the picture,” Birhanzel said.

“There’s definitely other full-ride scholarships out there that I’m definitely applying for, but you’re not always guaranteed those scholarships,” Palacios said. “So to be able to have this opportunity where you have to graduate from Harrison with a minimum of a 2.5, that would be just so amazing to have that opportunity.”

The district said this will help prepare students for the workforce with two years of community college or help them transfer to a four-year degree.

“Now we have a lot more students looking at this as a true option for them, versus, ‘I’m not even going to apply because I know I can’t afford to go there,'” Palacios said.

And with two years of college already paid for, these students are even closer to achieving their dreams.

“Being able to get my prerequisites out of the way, I feel like that will help me be able to get the classes that I need to be set and ready for the law program,” Palacios said.

“Being a first-year college student for the family, I feel like is a big goal,” Matthews said. “Because none of our parents went, within all of the cousins and us being the first one to step foot into making a better family and setting a better image is honestly life-changing.”

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