Hard work on the ranch translates to college scholarships for Coal Ridge senior

Coal Ridge High School senior Emma Poole works at a greenhouse at Big John's Ace Hardware in Glenwood Springs on Friday.
Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

Emma Poole is no stranger to blood, sweat and tears.

Her summer days are often demanding, filled with early mornings feeding horses and long afternoons cutting and stacking hay. Just another typical day on a Western Garfield County ranch.

Her father, Don Poole, imparts words of encouragement: “Don’t be a sissy.” And if the barn isn’t loaded with hay by August, times are going to be tough, Emma said.

“This taught me not to procrastinate,” she said of ranch life.

Poole turned her tassel at Coal Ridge High School on Saturday, and will have a $40,000, full-ride scholarship to Montana State University where she’s set to study graphic design and marketing.

Poole is graduating with a 4.26 cumulative grade point average and also has another $18,654 yearly college allotment through the Western Undergraduate Exchange.

Last week, Poole also learned that she’s receiving Genevieve Clough Scholarship funding.

Academic success isn’t just predicated from the skills and values Poole gleaned from ranching. The 18-year-old Titan at one point encountered a critical crossroads that would either make or break her.

Poole said her parents divorced at age 8. Living with her mother until age 13, Poole then began spending more time with her father.

Poole has lived with her father exclusively for the past five years.

“It’s been difficult, but I think that was when my life really started, and I learned the value of my strengths and being able to stick up for myself,” Poole said.

What has truly shined for Poole are her love for sport and art.

Prior to transferring to Coal Ridge her junior year, Poole helped Rifle High School girls softball’s push to the state tournament. Meanwhile, Poole designed a logo for Coal Ridge’s yearbook this year.

“I don’t know where she gets that from, because I don’t have an ounce of art in my body,” her father, Don, said.

He mused it comes from his daughter’s inherent sense of hard work.

“She’s just got a drive to be the best in everything that she does,” he said. “She really sets her goals to do well in school and to challenge herself in her academics.”

Asked about walking for graduation Saturday, Poole joked that she hopes she doesn’t fall. More importantly, when it’s time to head north to Montana, she’s going to look back on all the character-building days on her father’s ranch.

“I’m going to miss my dad and my stepmom, Sam,” she said. “It’s going to be a huge shift from working to going to school every day and not worrying about animals.”

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

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