Community profile: Three area high school seniors earn coveted Daniels Fund Scholarship

Ray K. Erku and John Stroud
Post Independent

Three local high school seniors, one from Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale and two from Coal Ridge High near New Castle, are among a select number of students named to the 2022 Class of Daniels Scholars.

The prestigious Daniels Fund offers $100,000 scholarships to students across Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado. Among the thousands of applicants this year vying for the opportunity were Coal Ridge seniors Navaeh Williams and Sergio Jaquez Caro, and Roaring Fork senior Bryon “Scottie” Bohlender.

Though they now share something in common, Bohlender, Williams and Caro’s journeys in achievement are each unique.

Scottie Bohlender

Roaring Fork High School senior Scottie Bohlender.

Bohlender grew up in Carbondale, one of seven children including four older siblings, and will be the first to attend college. He went to Carbondale Community School for elementary and middle school, before attending all four of his high school years at Roaring Fork. His parents are Gabriela Jimenez and Bryon Bohlender.

He’s already been accepted at three different universities, two out-of-state and one in-state, and is awaiting word from a fourth before making his decision.

“I’m still trying to find the right fit, but now that I don’t have to worry too much about the financial part I can concentrate on location, the experience and where I think I’ll be comfortable,” Bohlender said.

Some of those options are in the Pacific Northwest, but he admits he’ll have a hard time leaving his 2-year-old sister back home when the time comes.

In any case, Bohlender said he wants to study medicine, starting with a nursing degree.

“That’s been my dream since probably about the time I was 8, and by my freshman year I was thinking medical school,” he said. Eventually, he said, he may pursue a medical degree in cardiovascular or neurosurgery, but a career forum put together by his school counselor, Liz Penzel, got him thinking in a different direction.

One of the panelists indicated that there’s more of a need right now for nurses than doctors, he noted.

“I feel like if I can become a nurse and help the world with this great need, then I will have accomplished something that I’ll be proud of,” Bohlender said.

He said his interests lie in how the human body functions and learning more about physiology and anatomy.

“I’ve grown up in an environment where I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt, including in my family, and I’ve kind of just grown fascinated by that and helping people who are in that situation,” Bohlender said.

Penzel wrote one of Bohlender’s reference letters for the Daniels Scholarship.

“He’s overcome some massive challenges to be where he is today because of what he has experienced in his life,” Penzel said. “His emotional IQ and his maturity are beyond that, and he’s naturally curious, intelligent and motivated.”

She said Bohlender is a perfect fit for the Daniels Scholarship, because the program intentionally looks for students who want to give back to their community and who have demonstrated strong values and a solid work ethic.

Bohlender, 17, said he appreciated the support he received through the application process, and being selected for the scholarship is important for his family.

“Now my mom doesn’t have to support me as much, and she can support herself and the baby and my other sister (a freshman at RFHS), so that they can grow up and have a comfortable life,” he said. “I feel like I care about them more than I care about a lot of things, and I’m really grateful for this opportunity.”

Sergio Jaquez Caro

Coal Ridge High School senior and track relay runner Sergio Jaquez Caro.

Caro comes from a working class Mexican family that came to the U.S. sometime between the 1980s-’90s, he said. His father, Martin, grew up on a ranch in Mexico, where he was the only one of six children to attend high school.

Martin is now a mason worker, while his wife, Gabriela, stays at home to take care of the family, Caro said.

“(Martin) would’ve liked to be a professor,” Sergio said. “I think that going to college and using the opportunity that he wished he had is something that I very much prioritize.”

Caro, 18, heads into graduation maintaining a 4.25 grade point average. Such high merits are partly an effort to show his parents appreciation for their journey.

Caro’s father lived on a ranch in Mexico before making his way to the U.S., Caro said.

Caro is heading into graduation with a 4.25 grade point average. In fall, he’s off to the University of Denver to study international affairs and relations.

His ambition is to one day become U.S. Secretary of State, or work in government in another capacity, such as the intelligence community or foreign affairs.

“I think that cooperation between other countries is something that really interests me, and I would love to dedicate my life to,” Caro said.

Caro was compelled to pursue the Daniels Scholarship partly based on its motto of serving the community. Caro, also in the National Honor Society, says the Daniels Fund transcends the National Honor Society.

As a Spanish speaker, Caro said being a Daniels Scholar helps strengthen relationships within Garfield County’s diverse community.

“I think that trying to tear down that language barrier would be a good priority for trying to strengthen the interlacing within our community,” he said.

“If I don’t reach my goals, I’m still happy with the impact I’m making, and the work I’m doing for the world.”

Nevaeh Williams

Coal Ridge High School senior Nevaeh Williams.

Williams comes from a religiously devout background. Before moving to Silt when she was 11, Williams grew up a missionary kid in Uganda.

She described this time in her life as living in a very open community, where everyone knows each other and lives in huts made of mud and straw.

“It’s shaped what I want to do today, I think,” Williams said of her time in Africa.

At first, the 18-year-old thought applying for the Daniels Fund was a daunting task. Despite having a 4.4 grade point average and being president of the National Honor Society, Williams said one of her teachers had to convince her to even apply.

So when Williams found out she actually received the scholarship, she was beside herself.

“I kind of started freaking out,” she said. “I was so excited, I was in disbelief.”

Williams also said she’s so grateful for receiving the Daniels Fund because the school she wants to go to is expensive.

“I don’t know that I’d be able to go without the scholarship,” she said. “So I’m just really grateful, and I’m so excited to go to college.”

Williams plans to attend George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, where she’ll study music education and sociology. In addition to wanting to become a music teacher, Williams said she also wants to work with human trafficking victims and refugees.

“That wasn’t what we did in Uganda, but growing up surrounded by helping people in economic poverty, that kind of inspired me to want to do something similar,” she said.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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