CU Advocates learn about Pre-Collegiate Development Program success

Joe Dilwood

At six feet tall and wearing his uniform, Joe Dilwood, police officer, Department of Public Safety, is an imposing figure who commands respect.

But it was not always that way for Dilwood who grew up in an area that he said police officers describe as “knife and gun central.”

An emotional Dilwood told a group of 70 gathered in Berger Hall Friday morning that he owes his success to the Pre-Collegiate Development Program and the work of its campus director, Josephine Benavidez.

“The only reason I’m here today – and not either in prison or dead – is that lady right there,” Dilwood said before nodding to Benavidez.

Citing the positive, safe environment that the Pre-Collegiate Program provided for him as well as Benavidez’ legendary directness, Dilwood expressed his appreciation for the program that operates on all CU campuses.

“I was on the fence about going to college,” Dilwood said. “When Miss B. heard that, she said, ‘you are going to college.’ I needed that.”

Dilwood, a participant in the Pre-Collegiate Development program from 1994 top 1998 and a 2002 UCCS graduate, was one of more than a dozen current or former Pre-Collegiate participants who shared their stories Friday morning during a meeting of the CU Advocates. The CU Advocates Program, which is organized by the Office of the President, encourages CU alumni, friends and supporters to promote CU through grassroots advocacy. At events on each campus, successful programs are highlighted so advocates can share information with legislators, prospective students, parents and others with whom they are in contact.

The Pre-Collegiate program, offered by each CU campus, is the only one of its kind in the state. Its success rate is unmatched. More than 96 percent of the participants go on to attend a post-secondary school.

Christopher Pacheco, director, Pre-collegiate outreach and engagement, provided an overview of the program and Chancellor Pam Zalabak-Shockley made welcoming remarks.

“I am passionate about what this program does,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “This is a program that makes a difference in individual lives and in our community.”

The Pre-Collegiate Program began on the Boulder campus in 1983 and expanded system wide in 1988. After a first year that saw 65 students from six schools take part, the program now serves 2,000 students from 60 schools across the state. Funding from campuses, the Office of the President, and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education supports the program, which is provided free of cost to eligible students. CU’s cost per student runs about $2,000.

The program’s initial focus on boosting economically disadvantaged students eventually widened to help potential first-generation college students, those whose parents did not graduate with a four-year degree. GPA standards apply, too.

The college preparatory elements include year-round Saturday academies for groups of students, tutoring, classes in how to apply to institutions and request financial aid, workshops in study skills and career exploration and more. Parents participate, too, sharing in the work to motivate and prepare students for a college education.

Pacheco said out of the 96 percent that go on to college, 40 to 50 percent of students in the program attend the CU campus that hosted them; 60 percent of students in the program attend a CU campus.

For more information about the CU Pre-Collegiate Development programs, visit

For more information about the CU Advocates Program, visit

–Tom Hutton and Michele McKinney

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