Denver Continues Success with Rising Stars Program

Dec. 4, 2017

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DENVER – The University of Denver Division of Athletics and Recreation continued its Rising Stars program, presented by Public Service Credit Union, this past Saturday, when the Pioneers publically recognized students who have achieved academic success at Richard T. Castro Elementary, a kindergarten through fifth grade member school of the Denver Public School District.

The Castro Elementary choir opened proceedings with a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner before the tipoff of Saturday’s Denver men’s basketball game against Air Force.

During a first-half media timeout, the Castro students in attendance received a standing ovation, and Principal Dr. Robert Villarreal received a commemorative basketball to proudly display back at his school.

“First and foremost the Rising Stars program builds self-esteem and confidence for kids who come from an economically depressed community and they get to be recognized publically,” Dr. Villarreal said. “Number two; it gives them inspiration to achieve at higher levels. Castro is a school that was red, meaning it was one of the lowest ranked schools and we were only one of three in the Denver Public Schools who raised three levels, going from red to orange to yellow to green. So Rising Stars was a stamp of approval for our kids.

“As I look at the kids here at the basketball game, they are so proud. The first thing they showed me was, ‘Dr. V look at this gold medal I got!’ They love it. The other part of it is, Rising Stars gives the kids a chance to visit a college, they get to visit DU. They might start thinking about wanting to come here, wanting to go to college and that is the biggest thing. As I’ve spoken to a lot of parents and kids, this is the first time they’ve been to a college campus, a college basketball game, so it’s like opening a whole new world for them. To get to see the fans, the [DU] players, the cheerleaders, the Air Force Academy, it is a major deal in their life.”

The Rising Stars program began at the start of the 2010-11 basketball season, and in partnership with PSCU, aims to honor outstanding elementary school students from across the state for their exemplary academic aptitude and character. Public Service Credit Union provides these excellent students and their families and friends with tickets to their school’s selected game to come check out the Pioneers.

“In our Strategic Plans, we have set out to provide athletic, recreation and entertainment opportunities to the Denver community, and to serve as a positive presence and unifying force in that community,” Assistant Vice Chancellor for External Operations, and lead Denver administrator in the Rising Stars Program Bob Willis said. “In partnership with Public Service Credit Union, we started this Rising Stars program several years ago with Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools to give us the opportunity to reward students in the community that are making a difference. It could be for their academic accomplishments, for their attendance or for their excellent character in school.

“We leave it up to the teachers and administrators in the schools to give us their candidates for recognition at the games, and then we reward these students with a certificate and various gifts for all their accomplishments, while giving them an opportunity to bring friends and family out to one of our men’s basketball games.”

After the basketball season, Denver offers schools that have participated in the Rising Stars program the opportunity to have a player and/or coach come out to talk to the students about preparing for college and what commitment it takes to balance academics and athletics at the Division I level.

Remaining 2017-18 Rising Star Games



Men's Basketball vs. Fort Wayne - January 6th - 1 p.m. 
Men’s Basketball vs. South Dakota – January 27th – 4 p.m.
Men’s Basketball vs. North Dakota State – February 10th – 1 p.m.


For all Denver Athletics ticket inquires, call 303-871-GOAL (4625), or visit  

Student-Athlete Alumni Giving Challenge:
In 2017-18, the University of Denver is holding an alumni giving challenge in an effort to increase student-athlete alumni participation in the Denver Athletics Annual Fund. The sport program with the highest percentage of alumni participation will receive an additional $10,000 of support through the generosity of an anonymous donor. Former student-athletes can make a gift online, by calling 303-871-2388 during normal business hours or by sending a check to:

Athletics Development Office
Attn: Kaley Rickert
2201 E. Asbury Avenue 
Denver, CO 80208 

Fans interested in making a donation to the Pioneer Movement Annual Fund can do so by clicking here. Your contribution will make a direct impact on the success of YOUR Pioneers. Thank you in advance for your unwavering support of our student-athletes and their quest for excellence. 


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