Money for school, plus support of a Vail Valley family |

Money for school, plus support of a Vail Valley family

Lauren Glendenning
Eagle County, CO Colorado
Six of 14 Guardian Scholars gather at their school, Mesa State University. The students received full scholarships to college for all four years, including living expenses, because they all have grown up in tough environments, from broken families to violent families to no families at all.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” From broken families and rough childhoods, the Eagle County’s Guardian Scholars find hope and opportunity thanks to a new family they can trust.

Guardian Scholars is a scholarship program with a personal touch. The students who receive the scholarship ” a four-year full-ride to college plus all living expenses ” receive love and support that many of them have never had before, said Ron Davis, the scholarship’s founder.

Davis says the program is more than just a scholarship; it’s a family.

“We provide that TLC,” he said. “We attempt to validate that they’re worthy people because so many have been so beaten down.”

The students in the program have had all kinds of negative experiences growing up. Some had parents who were drug addicts; others had parents who sexually abused them; some had no parents at all.

Davis began the program for foster children in California about 12 years ago. When he moved to the valley in 2002, he saw a need for the program here, too, he said. The valley has such extremes of rich and poor, and the need was staring him in the face, he said.

He contacted the president of Mesa State University and initiated the scholarship through that school. The program requires so much coordination between so many people that it only works if you can get the commitment from the president of a school. He recently got the University of Colorado at Boulder on board ” Val Peterson, the chancellor’s wife, acts almost as a surrogate mother to the Guardian Scholars at school there, Davis said.

In California, he coordinated the program with Cal State Fullerton.

After about seven years in the valley, there are 14 Guardian Scholars in the program now and several others who have graduated, said Katie Bruen, spokeswoman for the Youth Foundation, the local nonprofit that co-sponsors the program with Davis.

Bruen said Guardian Scholars is one of the most special programs the Youth Foundation sponsors.

Another unique aspect is that there hasn’t been a need to put a cap on those accepted to Guardian Scholars. Everyone who has applied that qualifies has been accepted, Davis said.

While Eagle County’s program differs from the one Davis started in California ” in California it’s limited to teenagers who grew up in foster care ” the mission is all the same. Davis wants these children who have had so much trouble growing up to have a chance at making their lives better.

“It’s hard trying to navigate yourself through life with parents creating more obstacles than they’re helping you solve,” Davis said. “They’ve almost been conditioned not to trust.”

Trust is something Davis wants the Guardian Scholars to experience through the program. He personally calls all of the students to check in on how they’re doing, hosts a summer and holiday party for all of them at his home and is personally available, along with Bruen and Susie Davis of the Youth Foundation, for advice and support.

For Josie, a Guardian Scholar attending Columbia University in New York, it’s that personal touch that has kept her going. She had a tough time transitioning into the Ivy League college environment and considered transferring to another school. Her conversations with Davis kept her going, and now she’s a junior there with her sights set on Harvard University for graduate school.

“Keeping in touch (with the Guardian Scholars family) isn’t a requirement, it’s a privilege,” she said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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