It is a challenging time for many, especially college students, who are trying to navigate the stresses of completing their education during a global pandemic. With the increase in demand for financial assistance for students, the Summit Foundation has made substantial efforts to supply students with money to fund their education throughout their college career.
Since 1991, the Summit Foundation has been providing financial relief through various scholarship award programs that benefit Summit County students. The Summit Foundation distributes scholarships to high school seniors on their way to college but has also introduced a sophomore scholarship program to provide students with necessary funding to continue their education beyond their freshman year.
“What we’ve found is, students tend to get a lot of support for their freshman year, then a lot of that support can drop off in the later years of their education,” said Tara Dew, program manager for the Summit Foundation. “It's definitely been a priority of ours to try and support students all the way through college as much as we can.”
The sophomore scholarship program allows all freshman college students with a 3.0 GPA that have previously received high school scholarships from the Summit Foundation to apply to be considered for a sophomore scholarship.
“We have three priorities that are considered with our scholarship process – those three being community involvement, financial need and academic excellence,” said Dew. “We really look for students that do well in school, they work hard, they work to serve their communities and they need some help getting through college.”
The Summit Foundation budgets to award a certain number of scholarships each year, but this spring, with the impacts of COVID-19, the organization saw the demand for scholarships skyrocket. When the application for the scholarship opened in May, the Summit Foundation received an overwhelming 72 applications from local students in comparison to last year when the Foundation received 41.
Due in part to a donation made by Copper Mountain’s Play It Forward fund, the Summit Foundation was able to award 62 students with sophomore scholarships this year ranging in amounts from $500 to $2,000.
“It was really unexpected for us to receive that many applications, it’s by far the most that we’ve ever received,” said Dew. “That’s where Copper really stepped in to help us meet some of the need that we saw from our scholarship applicants.”
Of the 62 recipients, 35 schools are represented all over the country including the University of Colorado Denver, where one of this year’s sophomore scholarship recipients Matt Radtke Rojas is working on completing a degree in biology.
Matt was born and raised in Summit County and attended Summit High School. After high school, Matt immediately started school at Colorado Mountain College completing classes to earn his Associate of Science degree a year earlier than expected. Matt plans on entering a pre-dental field to pursue his dream of becoming an orthodontist after his graduation from CU Denver.
Last year, Matt received a freshman scholarship to attend CMC but always had intentions of reapplying for the sophomore scholarship, even before the pandemic hit Summit County and he was laid off from his job.
“I was already planning on reapplying for the scholarship regardless of the presence of the pandemic because it is difficult to pay for college due to the circumstance of my family being low-income,” said Matt. “It has definitely benefitted me because I wouldn’t have been able to afford a portion of my tuition if it wasn’t for this scholarship.”
Matt is thankful for the scholarships he has received from the Summit Foundation but also for the opportunity to complete a portion of his degree at CMC. He believes his decision to attend community college has increased his financial stability and will enable him to attend grad school without having to worry about debt from his undergraduate experience.
“I feel like every student should be aware that there are resources and foundations out there that will help you pay for college,” said Matt. “Every student should have the equal opportunity to attend college if they want to and they should all have access to these resources so they can pursue their dream.”
The Summit Foundation has been an integral partner in distributing funds to local organizations on behalf of Copper Mountain’s Play It Forward fund. The fund was established over the summer to provide support to community organizations providing essential services in Summit County during the pandemic and beyond.
Copper is proud to work with the Summit Foundation to provide support in our community and allow the foundation to grant a higher number of awards for Summit students to attend and complete their college degrees. For more information about the Foundation’s work, visit summitfoundation.org.