Community Profile: Meet Daniels Scholarship recipients Joseph Thompson and Tyler Miller

Grand Valley High School senior Tyler Miller poses for the camera in Parachute on Friday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Grand Valley High School Senior Tyler Miller boasts a cumulative grade point average of 4.37. Over at Coal Ridge High School, senior Joseph Thompson sits at a commanding 4.455.

Miller, student body president, leader of student council and the son of a Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy, wants to study criminology and international affairs. Right now, he wants to become a federal law enforcer, then pursue a career in public service and policy.

Thompson, a lover of advanced placement calculus who literally owns his own DJ business under the stage name DJ Event Horizon, is set on pursuing degrees in electrical engineering and Spanish. That way, the practice of his profession “doesn’t limit me to the English-speaking world,” he said.

That one step closer to achieving these high goals recently came true for Miller and Thompson. On March 22, the Daniels Fund announced — out of nearly 2,000 initial applicants — this year’s 240 high school scholarship recipients across Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

Among them were Miller and Thompson.


Having a private charitable foundation telling you they’re going to defray up to $25,000 a year in college-related expenses was a profoundly dumbfounding experience for Tyler Miller.

“I was excited,” he said. “But it was hard for me to wrap my mind around what had happened in the moment. Most of all I was just thankful to both the Daniels Fund, as well as anybody else who helped me along the way.”

“It almost didn’t feel like my accomplishment,” he added. “It felt like it was those around me.”

The Grand Valley senior who walked the halls of every grade level in District 16 schools, explained he received a great deal of assistance from teachers and school administrators, as well as personal acquaintances and friends, throughout his primary and secondary education. They pushed him farther than he ever thought he could go.

Miller’s hunger for intellectual growth started young. His father, Sheriff’s Deputy James Miller, who’s also a liaison at Grand Valley, had to help accommodate for this pretty quickly.

“Tyler, from second grade on, he was very big into learning, he was very big into books and reading,” he said. There was no space left in his son’s room as well as the shelf in the dining room. “We bought our first Kindle for him because I was running out of places to keep his books, to keep up with his reading addiction.”

Such a yearning for information drove Miller to the consistent achievement. Beyond his duties representing the student body, he represented Senate District 8 for the Colorado Youth Advisory Council, spending two years communicating youth opinion to legislators at the State Capitol.

Accuse Miller if being a political junkie, he’ll agree.

“I am very passionate about the U.S. government and politics that I took last year, as well as AP macroeconomics this year,” he said. “I absolutely love policy just because it’s the best root to go to influence and assist others.”

In addition to political interests, Miller helped fellow students and district staff fundraise $210,000 for a community ropes project.

James Miller, who considers himself a proud father right now, said it was kind of crazy for him when his son nabbed the exclusive scholarship; a meticulous process that involves three major phases of vetting.

“We were being told by other people that he had a really good shot,” he said. “But until you get that letter or phone call, it’s kind of just like a pipe dream kind of thing.”

James said his son could attend Colgate University, a prestigious liberal arts college in upstate New York. Or, since Tyler also received the in-state Boettcher Scholarship, he’s leaning on attending the University of Denver.

“I just want him to expand his horizons and kind of explore what he wants to do,” James Miller said. “I mean, right now, out of high school, he’s got his idea of what he wants to do. But I’m not doing what I set out after school to do. I never thought I was going to be a cop.”

Looking back, Miller described his high school experience in one simple word: hectic.

“There’s been a lot of opportunities, and I try not to let any opportunity slip,” he said. “Because of that, I’ve been spinning on all four tires, running on all gears, all cylinders firing, all four years of high school. I don’t like being stagnant because then progress isn’t being made.”


Doors have opened for Joseph Thompson.

“It really does just give me lots of options school wise,” he said of receiving the Daniels Scholarship. “I thought that was really awesome, that I can kind of make a decision based solely on where I want to go, instead of how much it costs to where I want to go.”

Thompson, who moved to New Castle when he was 8 years old, went to Kathryn Senor Elementary School and later Riverside Middle School.

Coal Ridge senior Joseph Thompson does homework in his bedroom in New Castle.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

At Coal Ridge, he’s already developed interests for space exploration, astronomy, aeronautics and his ultimate passion — electronics.

“I like doing lots of things that involve electronics,” he said. “I run my own DJ business and I DJ, and that involves lots of electronics. The speakers are electronics, the lights are electronics, the mixers are all electronic, so I think that would be really awesome to be able to work on the circuits in the DJ gear.”

Don’t forget a love for AP calculus.

“We just covered infinite series and it was really fun,” Thompson said. “I just think it’s really amazing you can use these roundabout ways to model functions. They’re really difficult and they made my head melt a couple times.”

When he’s not in school, you can catch him officiating soccer games, hiking his favorite spots in southern Utah and or spending his winters skiing Colorado high country.

Thompson, who’s leaning toward attending Colorado State University in the fall, looked back on his high school career.

“I’d say it’s been really transformative, I think I’ve grown a lot,” he said. “I didn’t have a business at the beginning of high school.”

Achieving something like that takes planning.

“It’s really figuring out what you want as an individual and figuring out what you’re doing, how well that is fulfilling that, and eliminating things that can really create space where you kind of flourish and grow,” Thompson said.

His mother, Gina, a math teacher at Coal Ridge, spoke of her son’s dedication.

“He has been such a hard worker,” she said. “Academically, of course, he puts all the work in to get great grades. And with his different pursuits, with his saxophone and his DJing, it’s been really inspiring to us. We’ve been really surprised by how self-motivated he’s been.”

Some mornings, Gina can hear her son practicing his instruments at 4:30 a.m.

“He’s been a gift. He’s been such a great person,” she said. “It’s exciting to see everything come together for him right now.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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