Coal Ridge Daniels winner Stephen Jones on a medical mission |

Coal Ridge Daniels winner Stephen Jones on a medical mission

Theresa Hamilton
Special to the Citizen Telegram
Stephen Jones, Daniels Scholarship winner

Coal Ridge High School senior Stephen Jones had just scrubbed in for a gallbladder surgery he was assisting with while on a medical mission in Bacalar Quintana Roo, Mexico, volunteering with a group from Loma Linda University, when he got the letter.

His mother tapped on the window of the door to the surgical bay and held up her cell phone with a video image of his father on the screen.

“Your dad has the letter,” she said.

Jones’ hands were gloved. He was in a sterile environment. He could not leave, and yet he was anxious to find out what was in that letter that would set the direction for the next four years of his life.

The letter came from the Daniels Foundation and contained the final decision about his scholarship application.

The Daniels Scholarship Program allows recipients to attend any accredited nonprofit college or university in the United States. The program covers the expenses that remain after all other scholarships and financial aid have been applied.

Approximately 1,850 students completed the application for the Daniels Scholarship Program this year. Of the 218 students selected as 2019 Daniels Scholars, 134 are from Colorado, 24 are from New Mexico, 33 are from Utah and 27 are from Wyoming.

“I had to wait for over an hour to get the news,” Jones explained. “After the surgery, I went to the lunch room and there were about 15 staff members — doctors, nurses, ultrasound technicians — that were on the mission with us.

“I was FaceTiming with my dad again, and as he read the letter to me he got through, ‘Stephen David Jones, congratu…’ and the whole room erupted in cheers.”

The scholarship means he can attend any nonprofit college and emerge virtually debt free. As excited as he was to hear the news, it was even more exhilarating knowing that he had the support of so many others.

“I got chills knowing that so many people were rooting for me,” he said with a wide smile.

The process to become a Daniels Scholar is challenging. It includes a detailed application process with five essays and an in-person panel interview. The interview was where Jones felt he met with the greatest challenge, and the greatest success.

To prepare, he participated in a Goodwill Mock Interview process in Denver.

“I left in tears,” he said. “I was heartbroken. I didn’t think I would be able to develop the skills to interview and be successful for the Daniels, but I have grown enough to be comfortable in an interview setting now. I knew I just needed to put in a lot of extra time and effort.”

Jones is a bit of an adrenaline junkie loving all types of outdoor adventures including snowboarding and river rafting. He is a track and cross country athlete, a member of National Honor Society, Student Council, Captain’s Council, ski club and book club.

He plans to pursue gynecological surgery or emergency surgery at an as-yet undetermined college, somewhere on the West Coast. He added that his time at Coal Ridge, although a smaller school than many attend, has given him a great perspective on the world.

“I feel like my education has given me the foundation to try and keep an open mind. People come from different backgrounds and have different needs. We should try and be as understanding as possible to others.”

Jones follows 2018 Coal Ridge graduates Zach Barry, Claudia Buckholtz and Santana Martinez in becoming a Daniels Scholar.

The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation serving Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming through its grants program, scholarship program and ethics initiative. Visit to learn more.

Theresa Hamilton is communications director for the Garfield School District Re-2, which includes public schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

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