Boettcher scholar Fleming ready to scale new heights
Glenwood Springs High School senior Sara Fleming is among 40 students selected this year for the highly competitive Boettcher Foundation Scholarship — a merit-based full ride to any college or university in Colorado.
“The goal of the Boettcher Foundation Scholarship is to keep the best talent in Colorado here by connecting them with the outstanding opportunities offered by our in-state institutions,” said Tim Schultz, president and executive director of the Boettcher Foundation. “Doing so helps ensure that Colorado’s best minds attend Colorado schools, build Colorado networks and use their immense talents to improve our communities right here at home.”
Fleming, who celebrates her 18th birthday today, is co-editor of the Brimstone student newspaper, vice president of Key Club and a member of the National Honor Society and the cross country team. An avid outdoorswoman and classical pianist, she volunteers with Sunlight ski patrol in the winter and the Earthbeat choir in the summer.
Although she’s not quite sure what she wants to major in yet, Fleming was quite confident on her school of choice — Colorado College — and didn’t hesitate to apply the award although she was accepted to several schools out of state.
“When I got my acceptance to CC, I just screamed I was so excited, and that didn’t happen for any of the others,” she said.
Colorado College, a private liberal arts school in Colorado Springs, boasts a special schedule in which students take one subject at a time in three-and-a-half-week blocks.
For Fleming, it sounds like a perfect fit.
“I always find myself wishing I could spend more time on a subject,” she said.
It also appeals to her dueling desires for analysis and creativity.
“A lot of people go into college knowing whether they’re a logical math science person or a creative humanities person, and I feel like I’m right in the middle,” she said. “Everything sounds interesting, which is a great problem to have. CC is a liberal arts college, so you’re required to take a lot of humanities, but it’s also one of the strongest colleges in the nation for sciences.”
When she applied for the scholarship, Fleming worried that her interdisciplinary outlook would work against her.
“I wondered if the committee wouldn’t necessarily want somebody who was so unsure,” she said. “I was having some family issues, and I was super busy, so was almost not going to apply. I thought there was no way to put together a good application, but my aunt convinced me that it was something I needed to do.”
She completed the four essays required for the first round, then rounded up three letters of recommendation for the semifinals and ultimately sat down for the final interview.
“Everyone was so incredibly nice, but that was definitely one of the scariest days of my life,” she said. “I met a lot of the other finalists, and they were all really amazing.”
She shared her experience at the Brimstone, which brought a brush with leadership and a chance to get involved in an important aspect of the school.
“It’s the only way we can get opinions out in an educated way, make the conversation more productive and have our voices be heard,” she said.
She also talked about her time with the ski patrol.
“I really like that I’m able to ski and also volunteer and help people at the same time,” she said. “That’s not something that a lot of high schoolers do, and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time on and learned so much from.”
Of course, her love of the outdoors is broader than that.
“My parents tell me stories of when I was a kid, and I would cry until I was taken outside,” she said. “It’s always been where I’ve felt most at home and most myself.”
Fleming fed the flame with a 28-day National Outdoor Leadership School backpacking trip through the Wind River range.
“That was a really formative experience for me,” she said. “I learned a lot about leadership, and I learned about myself and who I was. It sounds cheesy, but I want to grow up, and I want to make the world a better place. I feel like you can’t help anyone else if you don’t know yourself, and that’s what I get through everything I do outside.”
Less than two weeks after the interview, she got the call that she’d been selected.
“I was completely in shock,” she said. “I kept waiting to get a mail saying it was a mistake. It still amazes me that they actually chose me.”
In addition to clinching her ability to attend CC, the scholarship gives her a chance to pursue her passions by freeing her up to take an unpaid internship or volunteer. Moreover, graduating debt-free will make it possible for her to travel, join the Peace Corps or maybe move on to graduate school. She sees herself ending up back in the state in the long run, perhaps in the nonprofit sector or in academia. She’s learning that she still has time to find her passion.
“In some ways, it’s an advantage,” she said. “I can go in and explore things I might not have considered. I think it’s important to have an open mind. So many people decide what they want to do so early on when they haven’t experienced what it might be like.”
She credits her family, friends and the school with getting her this far.
“Every single one of my teachers at this high school I really believe is amazing and works so hard,” she said. “They’ve inspired me, not just academically, but in the kind of person I want to be in my life.”
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