Four Delta County high school seniors who have demonstrated exceptional character, leadership, and commitment to the community have earned a place in the Daniels Scholarship Program.
Among the 238 students selected as 2018 Daniels Scholars are Kayla Kensler, Cedaredge High School; Thomas Neil, Delta High School; and Slater Podgorny and Anders Schopp, Paonia High School.
A total of 2,250 students applied for the Daniels Scholarship Program this year. Selected scholars include 146 from Colorado, 30 from New Mexico, 26 from Utah, and 36 from Wyoming.
The Daniels Fund is one of the most coveted scholarships in the state. It allows recipients to choose from any accredited nonprofit university or college in the country and helps cover tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies and miscellaneous expenses after all other scholarships and financial aid are considered.
"These young people have demonstrated the character, leadership, and commitment to serving their communities that define a Daniels Scholar," said Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund. "Our goal is to help each of these scholars succeed in college and ultimately become independent, successful in a rewarding career, and actively engaged in their community."
Kayla Kensler, the daughter of Eric Kensler, plans to obtain a degree in premed from Colorado Christian University, then apply to CU Medical School. After four years of medical school and four years of residency, she would like to pursue a career as an emergency room doctor.
"After becoming a doctor I would really like to come back to Cedaredge to work because I love the small town and everything it offers," she said. "Becoming a doctor has always been my dream (I want to be in the emergency room because it's something new every day and I enjoy the adrenaline) and this profession is my way of helping others and giving back to my community.
"The Daniels has given me the opportunity to have my dream and a better chance of getting into medical school with little to no debt. I'm grateful for this and relieved that my dad won't have to worry about putting me through college. I want to thank everyone who has helped me and pushed me to always do my best."
Thomas Neil, the son of Dan and Jenni Neil, plans to attend Colorado Mesa University to study music business. He will probably transfer to the Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas.
Neil has made his mark in both vocal and instrumental music, and he plans to combine his talent for music with a desire to serve as a youth minister. Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers a degree in church leadership that is broad enough to allow him to step into whatever role he feels called to.
He hopes to return to Delta County. "It would be really amazing to get a job here or somewhere close," he said. "I don't see any reason to leave if I don't have to."
Slater Podgorny, the son of Moni Slater and the late Greg Podgorny, said he is considering an in-state university, or Grinnell College in Iowa or Cornell University in New York where he could play baseball.
Schopp is the son of Julie Bergdahl of Paonia and Peter Schopp of Grand Junction. He plans to study physics at Montana State University, and also wants to play baseball.
Schopp and Podgorny applied for other scholarships, but were most anxious to hear from the Daniels Fund. They were notified by U.S. mail four days after receiving an email notice that selections had been made. They checked the mail every day. "It was a long, agonizing wait," said Schopp.
Their envelopes arrived at the Paonia post office on the same day. Podgorny said he wanted to open the envelope with his mom, but couldn't wait. He had a good feeling about it and just peeked inside the envelope. When Schopp heard Podgorny received his envelope, he headed for the post office and also opened the envelope as soon as he got it. When his mom found out, she was thrilled, said Schopp. "That was an emotional day for her."
The Daniels Fund, established by cable television pioneer Bill Daniels, is a private charitable foundation dedicated to making life better for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming through its grants program, scholarship program, and ethics initiative. Visit DanielsFund.org to learn more.