When the notice came in to check her scholarship application status, Juliet Nava, PCHS Class of 2022 and a member of PCEF’s Bright Futures, was at work. And that award - the prestigious Daniels Scholarship.
Here’s how Juliet describes what happened next:
I was debating whether to wait till I got home to see, but I was so anxious to find out I decided to open it then and there. I saw the word that would change everything: ‘CONGRATULATIONS!’ My heart literally dropped and I was just in complete shock.
I let out a big cheer like never before and yelled from the top of my lungs. I couldn't contain my excitement. I felt like all the sweat and tears put in these past years were worth every bit. I am truly so proud of myself. Regardless of what I've faced in the past, I choose to focus on all that I've overcome. I use that as motivation and manage to persevere.
Juliet and fellow Bright Futures students (there are currently 100 students in the program) have worked relentlessly to smash the ceiling and become the first in their families to attend college - while also battling income challenges.
The scholarship Juliet earned may cover tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and more (the Daniels Scholarship is unique to each student). For Juliet, this scholarship is nothing short of life-changing.
“Since receiving the scholarship a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she said. ‘I will be able to just focus on studying for the next four years without that worry. This will also take the weight off my parents!”
Edwin Ramos, a PCEF Bright Futures 12th-grader, has also earned a scholarship that changes everything: from the Utah Jazz! As one of a limited number of students to receive this distinctive scholarship, four years of Edwin’s tuition, room and board, books, fees, transportation, and other supplies will be fully funded.
Already poised to make history as the first in his family to attend college, Edwin earned a spot in the University of Utah Honors Program. Now, the Utah Jazz Scholarship will allow him to work on the business of college - which is something that, before he joined Bright Futures, Edwin hadn’t allowed himself to even consider.
Before Bright Futures, I had no intention of enrolling in college because of how expensive it is. The Bright Futures Summer Academy helped me look at college as something important. The statistics they provided helped me change my perspective on college. They helped me realize that people with a college degree tend to make 1 million dollars more [in lifetime earnings] than those without.”
Edwin was also awarded the Carmichael Scholarship, LIA’s Be the Change and Senior Scholarships, the Bright Futures Scholarship**, The Utah Promise Scholarship, and the Chartwells Community in Action Scholarship.
“When I received the news that I got selected for the scholarships, I felt amazed,” Edwin told PCEF. “It will change my life – because I will be able to purely focus on my academics.”
A third 2022 BF graduate, Estelle Menenes, earned the Bleil Zehner Scholarship for First Generation Leaders, along with Westminster College’s President’s Scholarship and Griffin Grant. She also has the distinction of being a Presidential Merit Scholar.
“I was shocked and surprised to find out I won the Bleil Zehner Scholarship because I felt like all of the hard work I had done throughout high school had finally paid off,” Estelle said. “Right now I feel like a weight on my shoulders has been lifted… because I don't have to worry about taking out such a big student loan and being in debt.”
BF students Emylee Palominos and Jessica Hinojos are the recipients of the Michael and Sandrina Villegas Range First Generation Hispanic College Student Scholarship. This award, inspired by Sandrina’s own groundbreaking journey, was created by the Ranges in 2020 and funds recipients in partnership with Bright Futures and the Park City Education Foundation.
”I felt so relieved, it was pretty emotional,” Jessica said. “Before the Range Scholarship, I was going to attend Salt Lake Community College, take out loans, and do a lot of work and work-study and try to figure out financials. Now, I have hope I can pursue a 4-year degree at the U or Utah State. It’s now a possibility for me.”
For BF students, their path to college starts with the amazing first-generation programming offered at Park City High School. Many, if not most, participate in Latinos in Action (LIA) and Dream Big. The three programs, referred to collectively as Park City’s First-Generation Task Force, provide a strong community, a network of information, and myriad resources for students battling income barriers as they blaze the college path.
“Bright Futures starts the summer before 10th grade, and Juliet, Edwin, Estelle, Emylee, and Jessica are great examples why,” said Jennifer O’Brien, Director of Bright Futures Park City. “Earning competitive scholarships doesn’t start with the application process in 12th grade - it requires a long-term plan with volunteer service, extracurricular activities, and internships. It requires a strong GPA and honors level coursework. These victories reflect years of hard work and commitment from these motivated and resilient first-generation students.”
As Bright Futures students navigate a journey no one in their families has ever taken, there are major rewards – which come on the other side of gritting through enormous challenges. The roadmap each student drafts is different, but there is one shared compass marking the way: Bright Futures.
Bright Futures was able to encourage me to not lose hope. The finalists all had to interview, which I have never done, and I was really scared. I knew I needed to make a good impression! I practiced interviews with [BF mentor] Mr. Glenn Eisenberg and he helped so much! Mr. Franklin Morton, another mentor, gave me last minute pointers and was able to help calm my nerves down.
If it weren't for Bright Futures, I don't know how any of this would have happened.
Juliet will attend the University of Utah and plans to explore career options in social work and mental health.
I love how Bright Futures gives first-generation students hope. They aren't going to give up on you and will be there for you no matter what. They really care about getting to know you, the real you. You build a connection that you don't really get with many people. They will listen to you and help you reach YOUR goals.
Estelle, the current President of the National Health Occupations Students of America, plans to study nursing at Westminster.
I like how this program always inspires me to never give up and provides a lot of emotional support. Not only did they connect me to wonderful resources, like internship and community service opportunities, they also connected me to people who are going to school at the University of Utah.
Edwin, who participated in debate, Future Business Leaders of America, and the cross-country team, was Park City Education Foundation’s first-ever Bright Futures intern (Español | English). After he won an LIA video competition, he knew he wanted to study film - which he plans to do in the U’s Honors Program.
I don’t know what I would do without Bright Futures: I would honestly be lost. In college, I look forward to the same level of support - I know I can talk to them about anything, and they will help me figure it out. It’s so good to know you have a little bit of a safety net under you.
Jessica is passionate about social justice and plans to pursue a career as a change-maker in government. She’s deciding between the University of Utah, Utah State, and Westminster College.
Emylee will continue her studies in the University of Utah Honors Program as she pursues a career in medicine: she has already taken Career and Technical Education (CTE) medical courses and completed the health & medicine strand in Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PCCAPS).
Bright Futures, instrumental at PCHS, shifts into high gear as high school hits the rearview. The continuity of support in college has surfaced as singularly critical for the success of the Bright Futures program. And the success of the program, of course, is based on the success of its students.
And the students are making it happen!
These bright lights in Bright Futures are part of a cohort of stars: This year’s entire group, every single one of the 12 seniors, will attend college in the fall. This astounding fact is just one example of Bright Futures Park City students succeeding in unprecedented ways.
It takes a lot of support to establish and run a program as successful as Bright Futures.