By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Students at Bruce Randolph High School celebrated the colleges they will enroll in this fall with a signing day ceremony on Monday.

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(credit: CBS)

The event helped highlight the impact of the Denver Scholarship Foundation’s Future Center inside their school.

“I am going to be a proud Ram,” said Matxalen Villalovos, a senior planning to study at Colorado State University. “I thought I wasn’t going to have the money for CSU.”

Vilalovos says she came into the high school not expecting to attend a four-year institution. She felt like there were too many challenges in her way from that kind of college, both personal and within her community.

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(credit: CBS)

“I’m minority. I’m Hispanic,” she said. “I’m not expected to go and do great things.”

One obstacle she was worried about from the start was coming from a low-income family. But her tuition and fees will be covered by the university. As a senior, she sees a clear path ahead and plans for a successful career.

“I think I’m going to make my own business and from there I want to start a nonprofit,” she said.

The Future Center inside the high school is the source for the change in her trajectory as well as many of her classmates. The Denver Scholarship Foundations manages 25 centers at high schools across Denver Public Schools.

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(credit: CBS)

Staff threw a party for their students inside the center and representatives from local colleges were there to help them prepare for the fall. Each center has a college adviser that helps students plan and pay for college. Staff members guide applicants through the requirements, deadlines, and financial aid process. A resource that helps students focus on the next chapter of their lives.

“I realized that college is a really big part of my life and I need to pursue it,” said Eddie Carey IV, another senior at Bruce Randolph. “I didn’t really think I was going to be here, going to college.”

denver scholarship 5pkg transfer frame 930 Students Credit Foundation With Achieving Dreams Of Higher Education

(credit: CBS)

Carey will attend Metropolitan State University of Denver in the fall and plans to study engineering. He knows the advantage he had over others because of the staff who worked with him to get to college.

Carey says he may not have arrived at this day without them.

“It would have been really hard,” he said. “I know a few schools don’t have access to a Future Center like us, and they are on the struggle bus right now.”

For the current school year, 96 percent of seniors were accepted to college including 75 to a four-year institution and another 75 to a two-year school plus 45 who will study at a technical college.

Seniors have received more than $1 million in scholarships from the foundation. Seniors are required to visit the Future Center at least twice during the school year to make sure they are on track for their goals.

denver scholarship 5pkg transfer frame 1230 Students Credit Foundation With Achieving Dreams Of Higher Education

(credit: CBS)

“I chose CSU because it felt more like home to me,” said Alan Rocha. “It felt like somewhere I can be away from my actual home and feel safe.”

Rocha says the team at his school’s Future Center helped him to realize the right school for him was not initially on his radar. He says it was a lot of hard work and he faced personal challenges at home to get him to this day.

“No matter what, you always come out to be the best you can in the world,” said Rocha.

Days before graduation, these seniors are excited to continue their academic careers. They all say the Future Center is responsible for getting them to this moment and are motivated to pursue dreams they could have never imagined.

They hope other students can learn from their stories and find a similar path.

“Do the unexpected, even if you don’t expect it for yourself you have to try to take a step and better yourself,” said Vilalovos “I plan on making it big.”

LINK: Denver Scholarship Foundation

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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