Milo the Lynx made such an impression on eighth-grader Elizabeth Cardenas at Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences that she went home and talked to her mom about college.

Milo entertained students and pumped up college spirit at Hill’s monthly SOAR assembly on Friday afternoon. The assembly recognizes students who excel in the attributes of Safety, Ownership, Achievement and Respect. Teachers nominate four students from each grade level—sixth through eighth—for SOAR recognition.

Cardenas was among the 350 students who attended Friday’s assembly at the Denver Public Schools middle school. To be eligible for the assembly students must have 95 percent attendance and a GPA of 3.33 or above.

Cardenas’s GPA is 3.8, and now she’s thinking about attending CU Denver. “I thought it was really fun and exciting because I’d never heard of what (CU Denver’s) mascot was,” she said. “That day, I went home to talk to my mom and see if I wanted to go (to CU Denver) or somewhere else. I told her about the mascot.”

Each SOAR winner was called by Principal Sean Kavanaugh to the front of the auditorium where they received a CU Denver T-shirt and a high-five from Milo. Photos of the students in their college T-shirts get posted in the school’s main hallway.

Assistant Principal Theresa Dansky, who earned a master’s in school counseling from CU Denver in 1993 (School of Education & Human Development), said the SOAR assembly is another way Hill incorporates college into the school. “Every month we have a different college featured,” she said. “At this grade level it’s important for the students to be thinking about college.”

This month’s SOAR assembly was the first to feature an actual university mascot, Dansky said. “It was awesome that we had Milo for this one,” she said. “It’s just a fun way to celebrate and recognize students while they’re at Hill, but also encourage them to think about their future.”

All faculty members at Hill have signs outside their doors showing their alma mater. Several other Hill faculty members are also CU Denver graduates. They are Anna Pendleton, Brent Westrop, Eric Hanzel and Mike Kitch.

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