During a Spring of disruption and sadness, Colorado Academy Senior Dani Torres has special reason to be joyful. The worry that weighed her family down—wondering how they would pay for college—was wiped away in one moment, when she learned that she had earned full tuition at the college of her choice from the Latinas First Foundation (LFF).
“It’s amazing,” Torres says. “It didn’t seem to me there was any chance I would actually get it, because the chances seemed so slim.”
Torres was one of more than 850 young women who applied to LFF for tuition assistance. During the application process and subsequent interviews, she impressed the committee of judges so much that they chose to award her a full-tuition scholarship for four years. “I told them that I am a passionate learner,” Torres says. “From elementary school on, I have always liked school, and now all the hard work has paid off.”
The LFF was created by Juanita Chacon and Meshach Rhoades to provide a critical network and support for Latinas to reach their highest potential through non-traditional scholarships. Rhoades is a CA parent and trustee, so she recused herself from review of Torres’s application, but she is delighted with the results.
“The Latinas First Foundation was so impressed with Dani,” says Rhoades. “She is a fantastic student-athlete with a bright future, and we are thrilled to be a small part in her story.”
‘Girls can be what they can see’
Torres can thank a CA alumna for helping launch her successful journey to college. When she was in Eighth Grade at STRIVE Prep Westwood, her teacher, Meg LaFarge ’07, suggested that she apply to an independent high school. She was accepted at more than one school, but chose CA because “from the beginning, the people seemed friendlier.”
That choice “changed the direction of my life,” says Torres. Upon her acceptance to CA, Torres was awarded the Malone Family Foundation Scholarship, a merit-based honor for motivated top students in grades 7 through 12. At CA, she especially enjoyed math, physics, and science. She also played on the 2019 State Championship Girls Soccer Team, an experience she describes as “the highlight of my four years.”
But when it came time to apply for college, she faced unique hurdles, particularly because she is the oldest child in the family and the first to tackle the college application process. “As a first-generation student, it was harder for me, because I didn’t have anyone to look up to,” Torres says. “My parents were not involved, so I did all the paperwork and handled all the financial applications myself.”
Director of College Counseling Sonia Arora ’01 suggested she apply for aid from LFF and shared in the celebration of the generous scholarship. “Dani has thrown her heart into CA, especially as a crucial member of our competitive Girls Varsity Soccer Team and as a member of the Community Leadership Team,” Arora says. “I know that the committee at the Latinas First Foundation was impressed by their interview with Dani and all they learned about her academic and personal motivations. This scholarship will have an immediate, positive impact on Dani and her family and allow her to pursue her dreams.”
Torres had to make a difficult choice between the University of Denver and Colorado State University-Pueblo. The deal-breaker was the chance that she will be able to play soccer for CSU-Pueblo. “Soccer is a big part of who I am,” she says. “I really wanted that to be part of my next four years.”
In the future, she plans to help her 15-year-old twin sisters—for whom, she says, she has always been a “second mom”—when it’s their chance to apply for college. In the meantime, she will continue to be a “passionate learner,” thanks to LFF.
“Our motto is that ‘girls can be what they can see,’ and Dani is living this,” says Rhoades. “We know Dani can and will do amazing things in her career!”