"I was definitely one of those students where I was just like, 'Well, I'm in high school. I'm going to have fun. I'm just going to hang with friends,'" McCoy said.
That's why the University of Colorado Denver created a program called "Intro to Urban Studies" to help students like McCoy learn about the college life.
"They'll have a better understanding of what are the things that I need to know. 'Why is my ACT score important? Why is my college essay going to make a difference?'" Margarita Bianco, assistant professor in the School of Education at CU Denver, said.
Bianco says for many students from the Montbello area, they are the first ones to think about going to college. She says, often times, their parents don't know the logistics of how to send their kids to higher education institutions.
"The families don't even know what questions are important to ask," Bianco said.
So, she brings students like McCoy to engage in movie screenings, lectures, and panel discussions with current college students to find out the truths about being on a college campus.
Beatriz Salazar is a junior at CU Denver. She wants the Montbello students to know the realities she has experienced.
"I see it like trying to break the stereotypes people have of me, because I'm supposed to be pregnant. I'm supposed to have three kids. I'm not even supposed to be in college," Salazar said.
McCoy says he can learn a lot from college students who were likely in his position two or three years ago.
"Cause sometimes you have doubts like maybe I can't do this because of the situation I'm in," McCoy said. "Then, when you talk to kids like we just did, it's like: 'Wow, if they can do it, then definitely, definitely, I can do it.'"
Salazar hopes that it helps prepare high school students for the culture shock of college.
"There's a lot of students who don't go to college just for the fear of they don't know what's going on," Salazar said. "They don't know what to do."
There is another side to this program as well. CU Denver is trying to attract minorities into the teaching profession, as well. The hope is that if you can encourage teens from the neighborhood to grow into teachers who can go back to the neighborhood, it will help fill jobs that are sometimes hard-to-fill.
"Teachers of color can have a greater impact on students of color in terms of raising achievement," Bianco said. "Go back and teach in the neighborhoods where they grew up, work with the kids that look like them."
The experience was part of a three-part series called the Global Cities Forum. It's presented by the Colorado Center for Public Humanities and the P-20 Education Initiatives at CU Denver.
Maybe by getting a glimpse of the college life, it won't seem so far away for these students from Montbello.
"Now that I'm in this class, I'm experiencing a whole new ballgame," McCoy said. "It gives everyone an opportunity to experience what college is like."
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)