The Sopris Sun

Hard work pays off for RFHS scholars


While these six RFHS
students took a few moments to goof off and have some fun in the library, the
four years they’ve spent in high school seriously hitting the books has paid
off big time. From left, Tavia Teitler, Julia Lee, Enrique
Gonzalez, Nick Penzel, Lorenzo Andrade and Fabian Rico. Photo by Jane Bachrach


By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer


If producing a Daniels Fund recipient or Boettcher scholar is a
feather in a school’s cap, Roaring Fork High is on its way to a headdress.

This year, the graduating class of fewer than 80 students
boasts six such scholarships – two Boettchers (a full ride anywhere in the
state) and four Daniels (a full ride anywhere in the country).

“They’re the most prestigious scholarships for anyone in the
state of Colorado,” noted Principal Drew Adams.

“This doesn’t happen. I have no words, just high pitched
squeals,” added Vice Principal Kelsie Goodman. “We’re just so proud. The
strength of our staff and the community we have has culminated in something the
whole world can see… They’re awesome people, and I think the award matches the
value of what they’re going to offer their schools.”

Valedictorian, folklorico dancer, Order of the Dandelion
Recipient and former Sopris Sun intern Tavia Teitler is planning on studying
cultural anthropology, but hasn’t yet decided whether she’ll stay in state
(probably Colorado College) to take the Boettcher or accept some financial aid
at Stanford.

“The choice is definitely going to be difficult,” she said,
“but I feel like I can’t really go wrong.”

Fellow Boettcher scholar Nick Penzel, on the other hand, has
already decided on Colorado College, where he’d like to study biology.

Stanford will get a Roaring Fork grad regardless, as Julia Lee
plans to use her Daniels scholarship to study engineering there. Enrique
Gonzalez will use his to study computer engineering at the Colorado School of
Mines, while Lorenzo Andrade is still trying to decide where to pursue sports
medicine, and Fabian Rico is looking for a school for business or political
science.

Each got the word over spring break, and most had no clue how
their classmates had fared until school resumed on March 27.

“I was out of cell service – out of everything, knowing that
there was this envelope sitting, waiting for me to get home,” recalled Penzel,
an outdoorsman who is currently constructing a river-worthy wooden boat.

Like the rest of his cohorts, Gonzalez, a football team captain
who shares the role of class president with Andrade, expressed a sense of
relief.

“It was a really big weight lifted as soon as I opened the
letter,” he said.

It’s the culmination of a long process that included an
extensive application and, for the finalists, in-depth interviews. 

“It’s an interesting experience learning to market yourself,”
noted Lee, a published poet and editor of the Ram Writers literary magazine.

Each of the students made a point of sharing credit with those
who helped along the way, with “shout outs” to everyone from Goodman – who
wrote recommendation letters for all six students – to counselor Andrea Caruso,
who convinced at least one of them to apply.

“It’s an easy environment to succeed in,” said Teitler.

“We’re carrying all the people that helped us with us,” agreed
Rico, the student council Head Boy. “They’re on our backs and had our backs.”

Rico, Gonzalez and Andrade also gave extra credit to the
Precollegiate program, which helps prospective first generation college
students navigate the process.

“My parents weren’t able to go to college, so this makes that
dream come true,” said Andrade, who also obtained the prestigious McBride
Internship to stay on a wildlife conservancy reservation in Kenya.

The group emphasized the importance of putting your best foot
forward in high school.

“You put in hard work for four years and you can secure your
future,” Lee said.

The key to success, they explained, is to embrace your own interests
and not to underestimate yourself.

“Do things you’re interested in and passionate about, because
that’s what scholarships and colleges like to see,” Teitler said.

The scholarships, she added, are a nice confidence boost and a
reminder that students at a small public school can succeed at a national
scale. Penzel agreed.

“I think this is just kinda showing that you don’t need to
spend $40,000 to have a great education,” he said.

Rico, meanwhile, encouraged his fellows to take a bit of credit
for themselves.

“We were competing against other awesome people, and this says
a lot about the fact that we’re great,” he said. “I could tell these guys were
gonna go places. We’re going to college for free. That’s really cool.”

Published in The Sopris Sun on March 30, 2017.