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Old 04-15-2010, 01:55 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Denver, CO
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Default Touching story on - Daniels Fund Scholarships

By Gray Caldwell

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When Andrew Michael Craig and Paige Monique Wilson walked into the Futures Center at Thomas Jefferson High School, Daniel Graham was standing in the back of the room.

A little confused, they took a seat and noticed their advisors, a few of their friends and even Wilson's parents were sitting in the front row. Oh yeah, and there were news cameras pointed at a podium.

"My counselor actually told me it was like a congratulations party for people who applied for big scholarships," Wilson said. "She was like, 'We're just going to have cookies and a little celebration.' Then I walked in and saw cameras and I was like, 'OK, not what I was expecting.'"

Then Graham stepped up to the podium, stressing the virtue of a good education and how far hard work can take you.

A graduate of Thomas Jefferson himself -- class of 1997 -- Graham grew a little nostalgic walking down the halls, glancing in classrooms and inspecting trophy cases.

But it was at the end of his speech that he grew the most proud.

"I understand there are two students in this room, Andrew Michael Craig and Paige Monique Wilson, who have worked extra hard on their grades and shown outstanding character in commitment," he said. "Would you please come up front?"

The two seniors stepped to the podium alongside Graham, and it wasn't long before the reason why they had been called into the room was made clear: they each were awarded with a four-year scholarship to the school of their choice, courtesy of the Daniels Fund.

President and CEO of the Daniels Fund Linda Childears made the announcement, barely able to hold back tears. The seniors beamed as they were handed a certiciate that lauded their academic performance and promise, strength of character, leadership potential, emotional maturity and stability, well-rounded personalities, abilities and broad interests and potential to contribute to the community.

"I was simply ecstatic, but I was also a little bit incredulous that out of all the people that they interviewed, out of all the semifinalists, that I was one of the chosen people," Craig said. "That's amazing."

Approximately 2,000 candidates apply for the Daniels Fund scholarship after being nominated, and 500 semifinalists are chosen from the bunch. From there, the students go through an interview process, and ultimately 250 recipients are chosen from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The fund was created in honor of Bill Daniels, who was a decorated fighter pilot in World War II before becoming one of the pioneers in cable television, part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and owner of the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association. He also worked with the University of Denver -- the business school is now named the Daniels College of Business.

When he died in 2000, his estate transferred to the Daniels Fund, which provides scholarships to deserving students who are at risk of not being able to afford a college education.

Wilson said being chosen as one of those students was a dream come true.

"This means everything to me," she said. "It means my parents won't have to worry about putting me through college, it means that I can actually go out and do what I want in college -- not worry about whether I'll be able to afford it -- and it means I'll be able to pursue my education and hopefully open up my own physical therapy clinic someday."

She plans to attend the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for a year before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin. Craig will attend Yale University, where he intends to major in theatre.

Graham said he couldn't have been prouder of both students, and wished them luck in the future.

"It was really exciting just to see them have this opportunity to go to college and not worry about the financial aspect of it," he said. "It adds a little bit to it that the recipients came from my (alma mater)."

And Craig said it added plenty to the announcement that Graham was there to show his support.

"It was very exciting," he said. "I think it's really cool because it also shows the investment in the community that he has made, his commitment to work with and help improve our community. I think that's really neat."

After hugging her parents, Wilson took a deep breath when asked what was going through her head when she was given the scholarship.

"Just that all that hard work has paid off," she smiled. "It's just an amazing feeling to know that if you put forth effort, you're going to get something amazing in return."


Can you imagine what that would have been like? So incredible. Congrats to those two kids!!
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