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A collaboration between Colorado Mesa University, the City of Grand Junction, the City of Montrose and local high schools is making a big difference in the lives of many families through a unique scholarship program.

The Grand Junction Opportunity Scholarship, funded by the city, benefits recent high school graduates of Mesa County Valley School District 51. Colorado Mesa University Vice President for Student Services John Marshall said that’s not something you see every day.

“Here, we are with a city council and university working hand-in-hand to see that our citizens and our most talented and ambitious young people have an opportunity to go to college. Find me another city council somewhere in the country who is willing to write a check to make sure students get an education right here in their backyard. It’s remarkable. You have to pause and reflect on that kind of leadership.”

On August 7, the first round of recipients of the Grand Junction Opportunity Scholarship stepped on campus as Colorado Mesa University students. It was a time for the students and their families to get advice for the upcoming school year, meet council members and thank them for their support.

Scholarship recipient Jarett Brown said he feels a tremendous amount of gratitude toward the City of Grand Junction for believing in him and investing in his future.

“I’ve lived here and grown up here, and for them to give me the opportunity to come to this college, CMU, and better my future, my life and learn new things I’ve never known is a really big deal to me and I can’t thank them enough for that.”

James Foster, Palisade High School graduate and scholarship recipient, said being awarded the scholarship was the deciding factor that allowed him to continue his education. Both Foster and Brown started at CMU this fall and they’re not the only ones. 

For the 2019-20 academic school year, 93 students from D51 were awarded the Grand Junction Opportunity Scholarship. The scholarships ranged from $1,000–$6,000, making the dream of attending college a reality for many Mesa County residents.

“Many of these students will be the first in their family to go to college. There’s a lot of pride and excitement in that for both the student and for their parents. This opportunity to earn a degree will benefit their future, their family and this community, and for us to get to share in that in some small way is meaningful,” said Marshall. 

The Montrose Success Scholarship is similar to that of the Grand Junction Opportunity Scholarship, in that the city is directly supporting local families by making the dream to attend higher education a reality.

“Over the past two years, this scholarship (Montrose Success Scholarship) has enabled over 60 graduates of high schools in the Montrose County School district to pursue their dream of a higher education," said Montrose Campus Director Gary Ratcliff. "Most of the recipients plan to live and work in the Montrose region after graduation.”

Recipients of both scholarships have started their first semester at Colorado Mesa University, many of whom would not be where they are today without that support.

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Written by Kelsey Coleman