Eagle Valley senior Victoria Aragon named 2022 Boettcher Scholar
Aragon is only the fifth student from Eagle Valley High School to receive the prestigious statewide honor
Eagle Valley High School senior Victoria Aragon has been awarded the Boettcher Scholarship, a prestigious Colorado award only given to 50 students each year. Aragon is only the fifth student from Eagle Valley High School to receive the honor, and the first since the 1990s.
The Boettcher Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship that is awarded to Colorado high school seniors that demonstrate superior scholastic ability and intellectual curiosity, leadership, service, character and more. This year, over 1,700 applicants sought out the scholarship, with only 50 receiving the $20,000 per year scholarship for four years at an in-state institution.
Aragon has lived in Eagle County for her whole life with her parents, Armando Aragon and Aracely Marioni, and her siblings.
While Aragon describes herself as a little bit shy and introverted, it was in high school where she really began to find her voice, and her leadership.
“I’ve always been that person that follows the rules and follows the leader and just tries to have those decisions made for me,” Aragon said. “For me, I started that experience in leadership within my schoolwork, teaching my classmates how to do something I understood, and from there starting to take on projects.”
Aragon’s leadership experience and skill set blossomed during her four years of high school. She was involved in numerous school clubs and out-of-school organizations, including being the co-president of SPICE (Students Promoting Inclusive and Civic Engagement), being on the executive team for Devil Duels (Eagle Valley’s homecoming assembly), being a member of National Honor Society, being involved in YouthPower365, My Future Pathways and Mountain Youth’s Valley Voice program and more.
“I stay pretty busy,” Aragon said. “I love to be involved within the community, so right off the bat in high school I started joining clubs and I did sports. And then I just started finding my passion for social justice and advocacy, and even though here in the county, it’s not as much as we could do in a more urban place, I have found places where I feel like I’m making a difference.”
Aragon’s passion for social justice came initially from her participation in SPICE her freshman year, where she said her eyes were opened to many aspects of inequality in the education system and community.
“I had always experienced it, but I always kind of thought they were normal, because all my peers, which were also English Language Learners and Hispanic, had gone through the same things and I came to see that those barriers that were in place were actually not normal, and really needed that change,” Aragon said.
From there, she set out to make change and provide support to those in her community.
Just one of the legacies that Aragon will leave behind in the valley is the Tu Guia (Your Guide) program, which she helped start as a passion project in Valley Voice in 2020. Tu Guia is now a permanent one-on-one tutoring program with Mountain Youth that was started to “to bridge that gap and create more equity within the education system,” Aragon said.
“With the whole hybrid situation, those students that were English Language Learners were already at a disadvantage,” she said, adding that the program also sought to help not only with the academics for students, but to help families and parents with the new systems and technologies of hybrid learning.
However, the one thing of which she’s most proud is her involvement with Devil Duels this past fall.
“Even though it seems silly to be really proud of a homecoming assembly, it was the first time I had really seen the whole school come together, because each student was given a role and each student felt like their activities and participation within the homecoming committee really mattered, which was so cool to see,” Aragon said.
This growth in leadership through her participation in these groups and programs is something that Danelle Rivera, a psychology teacher and Aragon’s initial homeroom teacher at Eagle Valley High School, got to witness first-hand.
“I think I’ve seen her grow in ways that is very different than most kids,” Rivera said. “I’ve seen her go from the kid that was hyper-focused about grades — which she still is a great student, she just learned that work ethic so early in comparison to most kids — that I’ve seen her grow to understand that there’s so many more opportunities that a community and school offer than just your grades.”
Aragon’s counselor Zachary Williams, who also serves as the SPICE advisor, said that the biggest areas of growth he has seen in the last three years of knowing her have been her leadership potential and confidence.
“I think she’s just been such a strong asset to our school and bringing students from all walks of life together to make our school a better place,” Williams said. “I could just see the potential in her from the very beginning.”
A humble leader
While leadership is something that the adults in Aragon’s life are quick to notice and call attention to, Aragon has a very humble view on her leadership style.
“It’s not that I like to set guidelines for other people or make sure that everyone is following the task, but more so, making sure that with the opportunities that I have gotten or things I have understood, I’m able to help other students have or understand as well — more just trying to help others as much as I can,” Aragon said.
And in developing these passions for social justice, leadership and community — Aragon is ready for her future. Throughout her whole life and high school experience, attending college was always the dream — even if it didn’t always seem attainable.
“It has been a life goal. College has always seemed like the insurmountable mountain,” Aragon said. “It’s just such a big accomplishment for my family; seeing all the sacrifices (my parents) have made, truly working so hard for my siblings and I to get more opportunities than they were ever able to dream of is such a big part of my life.”
This spring, Aragon will not only graduate top of her class from Eagle Valley High School, but she will also graduate with an associate of arts degree from Colorado Mountain College.
And in the fall, Aragon has committed to Colorado State University in Fort Collins where she plans on pursuing a major in social work, continuing her passion for helping bring others up with her. Beyond that, she hopes to continue her education with a master’s in social work, while also keeping an open mind for new interests and opportunities along the way.
Now, heading into fall, she’s most exited for “that sense of mental preparation and going into what I love.”
“I have always been very passionate about helping others, but I know that my skill sets right now are very limited, so I’m excited to be able to learn more and grow as a person so I can benefit others as best as I can,” Aragon added.
And for those adults and mentors that have helped her get there, they’re ready to see what she accomplishes.
“I’m excited to see what type of leader she becomes and how far she goes in social work in that realm,” Williams said. “I’m excited to see how she’s going to give back to Colorado and our community and help our students and families like her.”
Reaching for Boettcher
Aragon first heard about the Boettcher Scholarship her freshman year of high school from the then-SPICE advisor and teacher, Hannah Shapiro. Already, in her first semester of high school, Aragon was preoccupied with attending college.
“Freshman year, I was super freaked out about not being able to go to college — being a first generation student and having that pressure of trying to make my parents proud for everything they have done for me — I wanted to do everything that I could to make sure I would be able to go to college,” she said. “I asked (Shapiro) if there were any scholarships I could start applying to now, and that was when she mentioned the Boettcher.”
However, Aragon said it didn’t feel like a real possibility to her. She said that in reading about the Boettcher Scholarship’s — and the even larger Boettcher Foundation’s — deep roots in Colorado, it seemed out of reach. That, and the fact that the scholarship branded itself for the “most elite students’ or the ‘top leaders in Colorado,’” was intimidating.
“I’ve never really liked to think that societal labels limit what you’re capable of. But it is hard to think of being a Hispanic, first generation student, not really knowing what the college world is — it is hard to try and associate yourself with a title as big as the one that Boettcher has,” Aragon said. “Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be qualified enough to earn a scholarship like the Boettcher.”
As Aragon continued through high school, while she kept the scholarship in the back of her mind, she never felt as though that was what she was working for. And once her senior year came around and it was time to apply, she wasn’t even sure she was going to do it.
“Freshmen year first semester up until I got the acceptance letter, I had it in the back of my mind, but I never really thought of it as a possibility,” Aragon said. “At the beginning of my senior year, I remember saying, I wasn’t even going to apply, because I knew I wasn’t going to get it, but then I was a like well, ‘I’ll let them decide.’”
On the other hand, Williams knew from the start that Aragon had what it took.
“I just knew from the beginning she was a perfect fit,” Williams said, adding that Aragon hit all the different pillars of the Boettcher Scholarship.
This included the academic pillar, given how she excelled in rigorous courses; the leadership pillar, given her involvement with various community organizations; as well as having a curiosity to learn and better herself; and wanting to do more for the community, he said.
After completing the arduous application process and becoming a finalist — Aragon was ultimately named one of the 50 Boettcher Scholars this year.
“I haven’t been able to really understand the grandness of this scholarship. It’s been a very big award and blessing,” Aragon said.
And as is her leadership style, Aragon hopes that her achievement will help prove and show to other students that it’s possible.
“If I was able to earn this scholarship, there’s no reason why other students shouldn’t try to apply and get this scholarship as well, which is just such a big blessing to have college paid for,” she said.
This is something that Williams hopes for as well.
“I hope that she’s able to inspire students here as well — especially LatinX students — that they can be successful, that they can do it, that they’re deserving of these opportunities and that they have access and support to receive these different opportunities,” he said. “I just hope she’s that beacon of hope in our community and for our students.”
Thanking Ms. Rivera
Part of the Boettcher Scholar process includes a Teacher Recognition Award, in which all scholarship finalists name a teacher that helped guide and shape them. For Aragon, this teacher was Rivera.
“She was always such a big support system for me,” Aragon said, adding that Rivera helped her with everything from homework her freshman year, managing the stress of school and activities, through the Boettcher and college application process and with many decisions she made in high school.
“She’s been such a big support and really changed my life, so I couldn’t think of another teacher,” she added.
For Rivera — who grew up in Eagle County and taught around Colorado for around 20 years before returning to her alma mater five years ago — she said that this relationship is the type she dreamed of having when she was in school to become a teacher.
“I have to have taught over 1,500 kids in my career and I’ve definitely had some that are amazing, amazing kids, but to have the level of empathy and gratitude and just, the super optimistic, but realistic outlook on life is not something you see of an 18-year-old,” Rivera said. “She’s definitely set a new bar in terms of, and I can’t expect kids to be like Victoria, because she’s that rare.”
Rivera described Aragon as wise, gracious, driven, committed, supportive, caring and hardworking.
“We just have a really good working relationship and that’s super unique,” Rivera said. “When you have those kinds of kids that both yourself and the student gravitate to each other, that’s not something that’s super common, and gosh, you just want to relish in that for that time being, because you know that they go away and you know that they have to grow on their own.”
The Boettcher Teacher Recognition award comes with a plaque, a tribute from Aragon and a $500 grant that Rivera can use for any educational project, activity, professional development or piece of equipment to benefit students and the school.
“I am flattered to the ultimate extent that Victoria was thoughtful to name me,” Rivera said. “I know that there were many, many teachers in her life that have been an impact on her, and the award that she has named me for is one that I happily share with all those teachers that have been in her journey to where she’s headed.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.