Glenwood, Carbondale seniors win Daniels scholarships
High school seniors graduating in 2016 are encouraged to visit DanielsFund.org this fall to apply online for the Daniels Scholarship Program.
The best scholarship a Colorado high school senior can receive is one from the Daniels Fund, and this year two of the 239 students selected are from Garfield County: Joshua Rayne of Glenwood Springs High School and Ruby Lang of Roaring Fork High School.
Rayne has a passion for art and computers and hopes to be the first in his family to finish college. Lang will go to school in California, then wants to move east and be involved in environmental politics.
It means a full ride — after any other scholarships or financial aid, and including supplies, food and lodging — to any accredited nonprofit college or university in the United States. And that’s just the beginning.
“We provide Daniels scholars with resources, encouragement and support far beyond financial assistance to help them earn a four-year college degree,” explained Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund. “This includes personal and professional development, a laptop computer, online tools and networking opportunities to help them succeed and thrive in life.”
The fund was established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels and provides grants and scholarships in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. With this year’s announcement, more than 3,200 students have received the Daniels Scholarship for “exceptional character, leadership and commitment to the community,” with more than $125 million awarded since 2000.
FIRST IN FAMILY
Rayne has dreamed of attending college for as long has he can remember, but for a long time it seemed out of reach.
“I’ve never really been wealthy,” he said. “We’ve sort of been on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis my entire life. Growing up, I always imagined just trying to find a job I didn’t hate and trying to enjoy myself on the weekends.”
Around the time he moved in with his grandmother, Rayne says he “got hungry” to be the first in his family to get a college degree. He applied for a slew of scholarships, including the Daniels.
“It seemed a little too prestigious, but I sent in the application anyway,” he said.
Of more than 2,000 applicants, about a quarter were selected for interviews. Rayne got a haircut and a new suit and found the interviewers cared more about who he was as a person than about his 3.78 GPA.
“Everybody was so friendly,” he said. “It was different for me to have them ask such personalized questions.”
“That was surprisingly sort of the calmest part,” he added. “After was worse — biting our nails waiting for the letter to come.”
What finally came was more of a package than an envelope, so he had an idea what the result would be before he even opened it.
“That was a pretty exciting moment,” he recalled.
It was also a huge relief. Rayne’s backup plan was more scholarships and probably student loans.
“I definitely would not have had the finances,” he said. It would have been a struggle, but I still would have done it.”
Rayne has a passion for computers, biology — especially neuroscience — and art in the form of drawing and creative writing.
“I’ve had a pencil in my hand since the day I was born, pretty much,” he said.
A self-taught snowboarder, swimmer and former member of DECA and the robotics club, Rayne found himself “a little pressed for time” for extracurriculars his senior year, with four Advanced Placement classes and a year-round job doing parking lot security for the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub.
Now, he plans to pursue art through a computer science major at either the University of Colorado at Boulder or Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
“I think that’s the way to do art and still make a living — useful instead of just pretty,” he said.
He’d sees a lot of ways to help people through software development and what he calls “human math.” He’s also well aware that computer savvy is in high demand.
“They say a lot of computer science students get snatched up before they finish their degrees,” he said. “I think if you have a degree in computer science you don’t really have to worry about finding a job. You can make your own.”
That means more opportunities to travel the world, raise a family or even retire early.
“I want to make enough money to do the things I want to do in our short lifetime.”
He has a few concerns about living the life of a computer programmer.
“You’re locking yourself up in a box and sitting in front of a screen,” he said. “I think ultimately it’s going to be what we make it. People are waking up to the fact that too much of anything isn’t good. We can remind ourselves to step away from the tech and that we’re still part of this earth.”
In an increasingly connected and global economy, he hopes to be able to live somewhere like where he grew up.
“I could not be a city person. I think the mountains have a pull,” he said.
Living in a small town and going to a small high school also set him on the path he’s walking today.
“It’s a double-edged sword. Other places, you have more culture, more languages spoken in the hallways, but small schools let you have a better relationship with your teachers, which is really important,” he said. “It’s what you make it.”
BANNED FROM SEA WORLD PAGES
Lang is one of those people who have known what they wanted to do since childhood. Her love of the ocean and of animals sent her to Sea World in eighth grade, where she admits she may have asked too many questions.
Since then, she’s launched the online marine awareness group “Stay Wild” and has been banned from several Sea Worlds’ Facebook pages for politely drawing attention to their animal rights controversies.
She plans to take her passion to California Polytechnic State University, where she’ll pursue a degree in environmental engineering. Long term, she hopes to obtain a master’s in oceanography and move to the East Coast to get involved in environmental politics.
Lang went to Carbondale Community School before coming to Roaring Fork, and hasn’t regretted opting for the public high school.
“I think Roaring Fork has been an amazing high school experience. The community here is great. There’s so much diversity, but we’re all so close,” she said. “It’s given me the opportunity to push myself. I feel like I’m coming out of a public school, and I’m right up there with the top dogs.”
Lang has kept a 4.15 GPA while working in retail and as a lifeguard, serving as Student Council head girl, doing independent study in coral reefs and physics, and taking Colorado Mountain College classes on environment and biology.
She somehow manages to stay involved in the National Honor Society, World Travelers Club, Energy Club, Links Club and soccer. She has served on the Colorado Animal Rescue board, as a co-camp leader for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, and volunteer on the Green Team at the Carbondale Mountain Fair.
Her awards from last year include the president’s award, “outstanding student” and “most school spirited” in the yearbook.
She identifies as a people person and says she loves helping people reach personal goals and find the silver lining.
“Positivity has helped get my family out of a rut,” she explained.
Her family had to move out of its dream home in downtown Carbondale during the recession, but never gave up and stuck it out.
“I’ve learned to be a human being and acknowledge it, but not let it crush me,” she said.
When she found out about the Daniels Fund a week before the deadline, her optimism propelled her through numerous essays and got the application in the nick of time.
Like Rayne, she was surprised at how personal the process was.
“It seems like they were focused on who you were and where you were going,” she said.
The wait, which Lang called “probably the most nervous and anxious feeling I’ve ever experienced,” came to an end on the second day of spring break.
“I just jumped up in the air. It was so emotional. We were all just overjoyed,” she recalled. “It’s kind of a lifesaver. It gives me such a head start to follow my dreams.”
Lang said she knew her family would support her, but preferred to make it under her own power.
“I didn’t want to put my family in debt. I wanted it to be on me,” she said. “The backup plan was to apply to as many scholarships as I could, work my butt off, and probably go into debt.”
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