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Paloma Sotelo, center, from Summit High School with (on left) Noel Hansen, vice president for Alpine Bank in Frisco, and Emily Weber, regional marketing coordinator for Alpine Bank in Frisco. Photo Kate Lapides

Paloma Sotelo, center, from Summit High School with (on left) Noel Hansen, vice president for Alpine Bank in Frisco, and Emily Weber, regional marketing coordinator for Alpine Bank in Frisco. Photo Kate Lapides

By Carrie Click

Alpine Bank scholarships are providing funds for 14 graduates of Western Slope high schools to attend Colorado Mountain College this fall. Today’s Alpine Bank Scholar story features a scholarship recipient from Summit County: Paloma Sotelo of Summit High School in Frisco. 

Since 1996, more than 180 graduating high school seniors have received Alpine Bank Latino/Hispanic scholarships to attend Colorado Mountain College. This year, 14 more students received news that Alpine Bank will cover the cost of their tuition, fees and textbooks for two years.

One recent Summit High School graduate is included in that group. Without Alpine Bank’s financial assistance, Paloma Sotelo might not have been able to pursue a college education. With that help, she is college-bound.

To be considered for these specialized scholastic awards, students must be of Latino/Hispanic descent, classify as an in-district CMC student, have at least a 2.5 GPA and demonstrate financial need, among other criteria. Each scholarship equals $2,200 a year.

Pathway to higher education

Sotelo applied to five colleges – Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado State University in Pueblo, University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Northern Arizona University and Colorado Mountain College. She was accepted to every school, though she knew the other four schools would cost substantially more than CMC.

For example, according to cost figures given on each college’s website, the cost for tuition and fees, and not counting books and supplies, Colorado Mesa is more than $8,000 a year. CSU is just over $10,500, and CMC – a little less than $1,900.

So when Sotelo got the news that she had received one of Alpine Bank’s scholarships to cover tuition, fees and books at Colorado Mountain College, the 14-year Silverthorne resident’s choice was made.

“Financial hardship is present in my family,” she said matter-of-factly. “It is the biggest obstacle in my way to a higher education.”

Now, with help from Alpine Bank, she is able to realize her dreams of going to college.

“I am super proud,” said Sotelo, who plans to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental science.

First in her family 

Sotelo had some difficult challenges to overcome before landing at Colorado Mountain College. Born in Mexico, she moved to the US with her mother, father and two older brothers when she was a toddler.

When her father left the family in 2007, and her mother, Rosa Saenz, became a single parent, life got tougher. With limited English-speaking skills, Saenz found her job possibilities were limited, and then Sotelo’s two brothers dropped out of high school.

“Not only am I the first in my family with the dream of higher education,” she said, “but also the first to obtain a high school diploma.”

Sotelo, who played varsity rugby and basketball on Summit High School’s teams and is an accomplished competitive mountain bike rider on Summit’s Cycle Effect team, has kept a busy schedule with school and two jobs.

“Paloma has won numerous awards for rugby and basketball,” wrote Molly Guevara, Sotelo’s math teacher, in a letter recommending Sotelo for the Alpine Bank Scholarship. “However, her biggest achievement has been her ability to manage her involvement with sports with her success in the classroom all on top of working after school. Paloma’s motivation to succeed is apparent in everything she does.”