Former classmate earns full ride

FAIRMONT – Andrew Johnson would have been a member of Fairmont’s Class of 2014, but his family moved to Colorado at the end of his junior year.

“It was rough; we’d lived here for 14 years,” he said.

But he credits what he learned in Fairmont’s school system with helping him achieve a four-year college scholarship through the Daniels Scholarship Program.

After finishing his junior year at Fairmont High School, Johnson’s father, Mike, accepted a position with Youth for Christ in Colorado Springs. Johnson attended Air Academy High School, a public high school located on the nearby Air Force base. He heard about the Daniels Scholarship Fund from friends and decided to apply.

“It took me about 20 hours to complete the application,” he said. “I had to write eight essays.”

The fund receives about 3,000 scholarship applications per year from students in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. That number is pared down to 550 finalists and, finally, 250 students who receive full funding for four years to the college of their choice.

A couple of weeks after applying, Johnson learned he was a semifinalist. After a couple of months, he learned he was in the finals.

The finals involved interviews with members of the business community so he recruited some family friends who were businessmen to practice with mock interviews.

“I felt like I was pretty prepared,” Johnson said. “Being part of the Fairmont community helped.”

While in Fairmont, Johnson earned the rank of Eagle Scout and participated in cross country, tennis, the TARGET group and the speech team.

He was only one the speech team one year, his junior year, but the benefits were life-changing for him.

“It was such a great experience. I know that it helped me with the [scholarship] interview process,” he said.

Spending his childhood in Fairmont enabled him to be involved in a variety of activities, and he feels strongly that the support and experiences he received ultimately enabled him to get the scholarship.

“Everything is just so competitive in big schools,” he said, preferring the overall comprehensive experience in Fairmont to the single-focus style in larger schools.

Johnson plans to study engineering at Biola University in LaMirada, Calif., for three years. Tuition is more than $40,000 per year at the private Christian school. Then he plans to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for two years.

The Daniels Fund Program was established in 2000 after the death of Bill Daniels, who was a pioneer in the cable television industry and bequeathed $1 billion from his estate to initiate the fund. About 30 percent of the fund’s annual gifts are used for the scholarship program, which has given away more than $300 million in tuition aid.