Denver Scholarship Foundation scholar comes full circle

DENVER – Making college a possibility for thousands of Denver Public School students is the mission of the Denver Scholarship Foundation, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this month.

Denver students have been showing what they can do when given the chance for 15 years.

One of the first researchers from 15 years ago, Derrek Sandoval, has been a success that has come full circle.

“When I was very young, my parents instilled in me that you were going to college,” Sandoval said. “We don’t know what it looks like or how we’re going to pay for it, but it’s something you’re going to do.”

Fifteen years ago, Sandoval was a student at John F. Kennedy High School in Denver.

“I was kind of a teacher’s pet type,” he said. “I played college baseball for years. So kind of athlete, jock.”

He dreamed of going to college, but making that dream come true was not going to be easy.

“Derrek was one of my students at Kennedy and it’s a pleasure to work with him,” said Renae Bellew, who has worked with the Denver Scholarship Foundation from the start and remembers the potential of Sandoval. “I’m just proud to have been able to be a part of his journey.”

For Sandoval, Bellew’s support and a Denver Scholarship Foundation scholarship was life changing.

“She literally went through the whole process of college for me,” Sandoval said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have known what to do at all.”

He then graduated from Colorado State University and ultimately came full circle. Today, he is deputy director of the foundation which changed his life.

“The Denver Scholarship Foundation is a university, and it makes it possible,” he said. “I’m still here today for this reason because I want to be that for my students.”

Students like Rosselyn Gurrola, a senior at CEC High School in Denver, also dream of the possibilities.

“I would be the first in my family of cousins, uncles, aunts, the first to go to college,” Gurrola said.

She says Sandoval’s support has helped her navigate the world of scholarships and applications.

“He’s always helped me answer all the questions I’ve had, and I have about 10 questions in a minute. He’ll sit down and answer all of them,” Gurrola said.

Making dreams come true is not easy. But for Sandoval, making a difference is his dream come true.

“The best day of the year for me is graduation day or decision day in college,” he said. “It’s really powerful when students tell you where they’re going in school. I want to help them navigate that situation and really be that mentor to help them achieve their career aspirations and educational goals.”

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