Hundreds of neighborhood residents, mostly Hispanics and indigenous colours, were forced to sell their homes and move out of the area in the early 1970s, during a city-led urban renewal campaign.
The three colleges that make up the Auraria Center for Higher Education in Denver are working to expand a scholarship program that provides free education to the descendants of people displaced by campus construction during the 1970s.
Leaders at the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and Denver Community College announced Thursday that, moving forward, anyone associated with the Araris who lived in the neighborhood from 1955 to 1973 will be eligible. The scholarship program was previously restricted to children and grandchildren of former residents.
“This means that the scholarship will live forever,” CU Trustee Nolbert Chavez said during the change announcement ceremony.
Leaders have also relaxed rules within the program, removing a cap on the number of credits students can earn and the types of degrees they can earn. Chavez said recipients studying at CU Denver can now earn Ph.D. degrees through the scholarship.
Hundreds of residents, mostly Hispanics and people of color, were forced to sell their homes and move out of the area in the early 1970s, during a city-led urban renewal campaign. Leaders at the time promised free education to the children and grandchildren of the affected population as compensation.
In the 1960s, Denver decided to replace this community with the Auraria Campus. This is what he lost.
But the initial program was disorganized. Chavez said that many students couldn’t get the money, or had to jump through “multiple hoops” to get it.
Campus leaders restructured the program in the 1990s. Since then, more than 1,000 students have received free tutoring at the three schools.
College leaders said the decision was part of the “seismic social change” taking place on higher education campuses across the country.
“This is one step toward a multifaceted and long-term effort to honor and support displaced Aurarians and the sacrifices they made of their homes, families and livelihoods,” said Michelle Marks, a CU counselor in Denver. “We are committed to our role as an equity-serving organization and invest in the future of our neighborhoods.”
The Auraria campus currently serves approximately 40,000 students and 5,000 employees. CU Denver, CCD, and MSU share the space, which includes classrooms, theatre, student union, and administrative offices.
All three schools are federally classified as Hispanic institutions, meaning that they all have undergraduate students of at least 25 percent of Hispanic or Latino ancestry. Students of color make up the majority of campus students.
Decades after Auraria Campus has been displaced from a neighbourhood, scholarship aimed at making adjustments may be the last generation
Alexei Hai, whose grandparents and great-grandfathers own Casa Mayan, a historic home and local restaurant in Uraria, said many families are still traumatized by their forced relocation from the former neighborhood. High, 41, studied art at the Auraria campus and earned a teaching certificate through a scholarship program.
“There are still a lot of regrets for my family,” Hay said. “You never know what your family gave up by kicking you out.”
Residents who attended Thursday’s ceremony applauded the new changes to the programme. Groups celebrated with cultural dances, speeches, and the blessing of a healer.
“Our community was and is unique,” said Frances Torres, whose family was forcibly displaced from the neighborhood when she was 19. “This is a step towards ensuring that all the promises made to our community are kept.”
The Extended Scholarship Program will be launched during the Spring of 2022 at the three Auraria Campus Schools. Applicants must be residents of Colorado, and provide evidence of ancestry.
More information is available on the program’s website.