More Than Money: For eight Greeley students, scholarship math adds up to a community victory

Greeley Central High School senior Yahir Chairez-Salazar recently received the sort of news that makes a person feel like they’re floating on air. After a rigorous application process that included the submission of three essays, extensive personal interviews, and multiple letters of recommendation from members of his community, Chairez-Salazar found out he had been awarded a prestigious scholarship from The Boettcher Foundation.

“I am completely overwhelmed,” Chairez-Salazar said. “All my stress just rolled from my shoulders.”

Along with 39 others across the state, he was awarded the full cost of tuition at any four-year college or university in Colorado, as well as fees, a book allowance, and an annual stipend for living expenses.

Herminia Bocanegra, a senior at Northridge High School, also received one of the rare and highly coveted scholarships, which are granted for superior scholastic abilities, evidence of leadership and involvement, service to the community and school, and outstanding character.

“My mom was like, ‘I knew you had this in the bag.’ It just means so much to me and my family,” Bocanegra said. “But it goes beyond the economic help. It really is a symbol of inspiration for younger girls, much like me, that they can do this, too.”

Both Bocanegra and Chairez-Salazar are among the first in their families to graduate high school and attend college. Each plans to use the Boettcher Scholarship to attend the Colorado School of Mines to study engineering.

“It’s more than the money,” Chairez-Salazar confessed. “This gives me the opportunity to pay back everyone who has supported me—my family, my teachers, my coaches, former teachers, and coaches—everyone.”

Elsewhere in and around District 6, six fellow seniors have their own reasons to celebrate. Lucero Cervantes Andazola (Early College Academy); Garrett Cole Yackey (Frontier Academy); Brenden Michael Folsom, Rasheed William Garza-Archuleta, Ali Ziyad Lone (Greeley West High School); and George Spencer Paladichuk (Northridge High School) were awarded Daniels Fund Scholarships, after more than 2,000 students applied this year. The Daniels Fund awards scholarships based not only on academic success but on the character, leadership qualities, and commitment to contributing to the community exhibited by students.

“Being awarded this scholarship still hasn’t quite sunk in for me, but I feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity all thanks to the help of my teachers and family,” said Brenden Michael Folsom.

“We are so proud of this year’s Daniels Fund scholarship recipients,” said Superintendent Dr. Deirdre Pilch. “Having six of our students receive this competitive scholarship really is a testament to the hard work and tenacity of these incredibly talented young people and the staff and volunteers who supported them through this rigorous application process. This scholarship will help these students realize their dreams. Congratulations to them all.”

These scholarships are proof of Greeley’s students’ hard work and natural gifts, of course, but their victories are even more monumental when viewed through the lens of the pandemic. For any student to graduate high school on the tail end of ever-changing educational modalities is impressive. To do so at the top of your class, as a proud member of your community representing Greeley’s excellence across Colorado? That’s a story worth telling.

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