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KIRTLAND — A college access summit Tuesday evening brought sixth through 11th grade students from across the county to meet and talk to representatives from colleges and universities.

Farmington resident Karyn Denny attended the event at Bond Wilson Technical Center with her daughter, Katherine Martins, a junior at Piedra Vista High School.

Together, they asked questions about California Institute of Technology to Derek Terrell, assistant director of admissions for the science and engineering institute in Pasadena, California.

Martins, a junior at Piedra Vista High School, later said she is interested in Caltech because of its science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes.

"I wanted her to get an idea of what it's like to come to a college fair like this," Denny said.

Terrell spoke to the mother and daughter for several minutes about the application process and opportunities to visit the campus.

"It was great to be there with them and talk them through what our institution has to offer," Terrell said.

The two-hour event had college and university representatives from across the country attend and conduct break out sessions that provided information about the college application process.

Organizers did not want students to only pick up brochures from the representatives then leave. They wanted students to engage and learn.

"It's OK if you don't know anything about their schools," said Rafael Figueroa, dean of college guidance at Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque.

Central Consolidated School District partnered with Albuquerque Academy, Santa Fe Preparatory School and Rocky Mountain Association for College Admissions Counseling to organize the event and to promote college access for students.

CCSD invited schools from inside its district as well as schools in Farmington, Aztec and Bloomfield.

Darah Tabrum, coordinator of academics for CCSD, said part of the goal was to provide students the opportunity to interact with colleges they might have never heard about and to collect information for pursuing higher education.

"We're teaching our kids about the many different pathways to college or to a career and that means they're better served by talking and learning in sessions and group environments," Tabrum said.

Having multiple school districts involved also gives colleges and universities an incentive to visit the area, she added.

About 15 middle school students attended the session about college awareness and planning.

Many students said they heard about college from family members, including stories about first time independence and paying for tuition.

"No one tells you when to wake up but you still have to go to class. That becomes your job and that's a big deal," said Jaclyn Mandart, assistant dean of admissions for Union College.

At the college fair, Jakobe Jeudy, a seventh grader at Newcomb Middle School, visited Mandart at the booth for Union College, a liberal arts college in Schenectady, New York.

As Jeudy conversed with Mandart, he opened a brochure about the school and glanced at its information.

"I think it's helpful to learn about these colleges and see that there are these places that are involved with the type of career or interest that you want to do. These colleges are unique from one another but they all share one common thing — that's they want me to learn," Jeudy said in an interview.

Shiprock High School students Valencia Begay's attention was focused on information about Bryn Mawr College, a women's liberal arts college in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

"I want to meet new people and discover how the world is," Begay said about her interest in the college.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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