Scholarships

Basalt High School seniors James Blazier and Odalys Cruz Bonilla are finalists for Daniels Fund Scholarships this year.

Cable television pioneer Bill Daniels established a competitive scholarship program that uses criteria including leadership potential, strength of character and commitment to serving one’s community as well as good grades, to determine its recipients.

The Daniels Scholarship Program is considered highly competitive and one which draws thousands of applications to its rigorous application process. It culminates with an in-person interview.

Two Basalt High School seniors, James Blazier and Odalys Cruz Bonilla, are finalists this year for the Daniels Fund Scholarships. This week, Blazier and Cruz Bonilla shared what that means to them and how the funding could impact their future.

James Blazier 

RFWJ: Have you decided where you’ll go to college? Do you know what you’d like to study and do you have a career in mind?

JB: I have not yet decided where I want to go to college but I’ve applied to several schools out of state and am waiting hopefully for an outcome that I’m happy with. Stanford University is my dream school but there are so many opportunities for me and I have an open mind. I plan to major in cultural anthropology or sociology, but again, I don’t want to limit myself and I’m excited to explore my options.

RFWJ: According to their website, “Daniels Scholars are selected because they embody the criteria Bill Daniels defined for the program:” That includes strength of character, leadership potential, commitment to serving their communities, academic performance or promise, well rounded personality, emotional maturity and stability. Which of those strengths do you bring to the table? All of the above or some traits more than others?

JB: I’ve always been so excited about the Daniels Fund because its criteria are virtues that I’ve aspired for since I started high school. I believe I have a lot of leadership potential; I’m Head Student at my high school, which is the student body representative, and I’ve taken many active roles in my school’s Student Government Club, which I enjoy tremendously.

I’ve also tried to live my life every day being kind to everyone and humble, and to never do anything without my heart in it. I’ve excelled in my academics but it’s always been my desire to learn as much as I can that’s driven me, and will continue to do so through college. I’m so honored to be a finalist for the Daniels Fund because it shows a recognition of qualities in me that I value highly.

RFWJ: What activities have you taken part in during your high school career?

JB: I’ve been in Student Council, my school’s Student Government Club, since I was a sophomore. I have also played roles in my school’s annual musical theater production and have been in choir, both since freshman year. I’m also active in National Honors Society, and Student Mentoring which is a program to help incoming freshmen adjust to BHS. I’ve been in the Roaring Fork Valley Pre-Collegiate program (a selective program for first generation college-bound students) since I was in 7th grade, and last summer I traveled to Kenya through the local McBride-Lewa internship. (Blazier is also vice president of the school’s National Honor Society club).

RFWJ: What was your favorite class or favorite subject during school?

JB: I’ve genuinely enjoyed the majority of my classes in high school but my favorites include freshman human geography and AP environmental science. I enjoyed human geography because I was able to study different societies and cultures and learn about modern issues being faced across several parts of the world frequently through a geopolitical lens. AP environmental science was a mix of what I’d learned in geography with science which helped me better understand what solutions are available for the previously mentioned issues like global water distribution.

RFWJ: Are you involved in any service projects or volunteerism?

JB: For the past three years I have been involved in my school’s community service club Key Club which is a club dedicated to giving back to others. Similarly, in student council, our motto is, “How may we serve you?” since we consistently try to give back to the school’s student body through planned school-wide events and awareness campaigns like safe teen driving. In addition, in National Honor Society, we tutor students and plan the annual Basalt Color Run which is a fundraiser for the Aspen Hope Center, a local mental health and crisis prevention institution.

RFWJ: Do you work part time or during the summer, and if so is it hard to balance your homework and your studies?

JB: I’ve worked at a local restaurant in Basalt every summer since freshman year and have started a small personal savings account with the money, but I don’t work during the school year so that I can focus on academics and the service clubs I’m involved in. However, I plan to have a part-time job in college next year to assist my family in paying for college.

RFWJ: How else will you pay for college?

JB: My family doesn’t have a lot of extra money to put towards my education. I had a single mother for several years who worked to make ends meet and although she has recently remarried, we are still a low-income family and I have a younger sister who’s still in high school and an older sister who plans to transfer to a university next year. The Daniels Fund is my biggest hope for affording college. I also plan to help pay for college with earnings from a job I’ll get while in college and hopefully local scholarships and school financial aid.

RFWJ: Finally, do you think your generation has the opportunity to make some significant changes in society? If so, where do you see that happening?

JB: I have a lot of hope in my generation to make changes, especially as we become older and more politically active. We’ll play a large role in slowing and preventing climate change as it’s the biggest issue of our generation. I know my generation will break the status quo of neglecting the topic of climate change, and we will meet the demands that the future holds with progressive ideas. Our country has been restrained in the chains of denial for too long.

My generation knows science and we know we’ll see the consequences in our lifetime as they become more severe.. I hope that with the knowledge I receive in college about how societies work, I’ll be able to help the effort to stop climate change by knowing how to get people to change and how to implement reforms successfully in different societies. I know we’ll make the difference and ensure a clean planet for future generations.

Odalys Cruz Bonilla 

RFWJ: Have you decided where you’ll go to college? Do you know what you’d like to study and do you have a career in mind?

OCB: I haven’t decided where I’m going to college, but my plan is to study psychology and become either a clinical psychologist or therapist.

RFWJ: According to their website, “Daniels Scholars are selected because they embody the criteria Bill Daniels defined for the program:” That includes strength of character, leadership potential, commitment to serving their communities, academic performance or promise, well rounded personality, emotional maturity and stability. Which of those strengths do you bring to the table? All of the above or some traits more than others?

OCB: I feel like I’m a leader in the way where I’ll help guide people to what they can do best rather than expecting a common goal out of everyone. I also have been including myself in the community when it comes to volunteering and increasing my own expectations for not only my teacher but also myself when it comes to academics. With my emotional maturity, I have become a more well-rounded person instead of having the same expectations out of every one simply because I can.

RFWJ: What activities have you taken part in during your high school career?

OCB: In high school, I have been a part of Pre-Collegiate, the Book Club at school, Hurst Seminars at the Aspen Institute and Student Diplomacy Corps in which I studied abroad in China to learn about environmentalism.

RFWJ: What was your favorite class or favorite subject during school?

OCB: My favorite class in high school has been psychology because it has been a mix of social studies and science which are my two favorite subjects since they are people-based and can be seen in the real world.

RFWJ: Are you involved in any service projects or volunteerism?

OCB: I volunteer with SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), the Lift-Up food drive, St. Baldrick’s (Foundation), and Valley View’s “Rally the Valley” events.

RFWJ: Do you work part time or during the summer, and if so is it hard to balance your homework and your studies?

OCB: I work both part-time during the school year and over the summer, at times it has been difficult to balance my time especially taking AP classes since AP exams are at the same time, but I have been able to manage my time better.

RFWJ: How else will you pay for college?

OCB: I’m planning on continuing to work part-time in college in order to help pay for college along with using the money that I have already saved up.

RFWJ: Finally, do you think your generation has the opportunity to make some significant changes in society? If so, where do you see that happening?

OCB: I believe that our generation has the opportunity to make significant changes in society, especially in this Valley where environmentalism has been such a big part of our lives.

I believe that the issues that have already been challenged by generations prior will only become a wider issue since we have acknowledged what the issues are now it’s just a push for action. I feel like with these past issues becoming more realistically manageable such as climate change and gender equality there will be an emphasis on going above and beyond on these issues for generations to come.