Our bright kids shine | VailDaily.com

Our bright kids shine

AVON — Relax, our future is in good hands.

The Youth Foundation's Lindsey Myers put a bunch of their college scholarship winners in a room Tuesday morning, and collectively they answered that age old question, "What's wrong with kids these days?"

The answer: Not one thing.

The event brought together scholarship recipients and donors, who were very anxious to meet one another. David Garcia wanted to thank people for the hand up. He's also thankful for the Youth Foundation keeping tabs on him, and others like him, while he's in college. Garcia is a freshman at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, majoring in physiology and exercise science, with his sites set on a career as a physical therapist. Juan Hernandez is a CMU senior, finishing his undergrad work in psychology and counseling. He hopes to open a private practice.

"People believe in us and want us to succeed," Hernandez said. "That motivates us and is another reason to push to finish college."

They're both the first in their families to attend college. College taught them to function on their own as adults, and to handle life's twists and turns while true to their values, Hernandez said.

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Hernandez might have been able to go to college without the scholarships, but he'd likely be working so much to pay for it that college would have become a four-year exercise in staying awake.

All about the Benjamins

It really is all about the Benjamins.

When asked about the tough challenges they face, money topped everyone's list. In 2012, it took kids six years to finish college, and only 59 percent did, Myers said.

Of those, 38 percent drop out for financial reasons, and 80 percent file for personal bankruptcy at some point in their lives, although bankruptcy does not cancel student loan debt.

Edith Gonzalez is spending her first two years at Colorado Mountain College, getting great grades, working and saving her scholarship money. So far, she doesn't have a dime in student loan debt. Her friend Gladys Villa is at Colorado Mesa, and so far doesn't have much debt either. Villa is thrilled with that, but will borrow if she has to.

"I try to see student loan debt as an investment instead of a burden," Villa said.

Everyone loves a winner

Karla Robledo is a dreamer. Her parents brought her from Mexico when she was still a babe in arms. They run a successful upholstery business in the valley and she's attending Colorado Mesa University. College wasn't part of her parents' culture and they were wary at first, Robledo said.

"At first they didn't embrace the idea, then Amy Coyer explained to them that one of the reasons they came to America was to give their kids an opportunity, and that going to college is that opportunity," Robledo said.

Robledo wants to be a teacher, and her grades are almost perfect. She may have a job in Eagle County schools waiting for her when she graduates. She's also the first in her family to go to college.

That's the gold standard, Myers said, send local kids to college to give them a leg up, then see them return to the region to build careers, like Robledo.

Matthew Genelin is studying cellular and molecular biology at CU Boulder. Yeah, he's that smart. He's also part of an acapella group that just released its first album, which keeps him from being all biology all the time.

Sarah Cooper is attending Colorado State University, studying pre-med. Yeah, she's that smart too. Jaimee Rindy graduated Eagle Valley High School and is playing volleyball at Coe College in Iowa. She started a blog about being a college volleyball player, which was noticed by USA Volleyball magazine. Now she's one of their columnists.

Yeah, you can get there from here, Myers explained to the room. You just need a hand up.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.