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The City Journals

Adversity didn’t deter these students’ accomplishments to get a college education

Sep 09, 2021 09:49AM ● By Julie Slama

Brighton’s Hailey Timm was presented a $2,500 check as the Rising Star Scholarship winner from Canyons Education Foundation Development Officer Denise Haycock. (Photo courtesy of Canyons Education Foundation)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Utah State University, Missouri Valley College, Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah will enroll some recent Canyons School District graduates, thanks to the Canyons Education Foundation.

Six graduates from the class of 2021 were awarded partial scholarships to further their education.

The annual Bright Star Scholarship of $1,000 was also awarded to seniors from each high school in Canyons School District who has shown improvement or exemplary effort in working toward the goal of post-secondary education. This year’s scholarship recipients are Saskia Paepke-Chile, Alta High; Sean Spackman, Brighton High; Abbey Aamodt, Corner Canyon High; Martha Lopez Rodriguez, Diamond Ridge High; Miriam Camacho, Hillcrest High; and Elijah Martin; Jordan High.

Brighton’s Hailey Timm was awarded $2,500, the Rising Star Scholarship for having “risen” above trying circumstances either in family life, financially, emotionally or scholastically; Timm and all scholarship winners are dedicated to furthering their education, said Denise Haycock, Canyons Education Foundation development officer.

For Timm, the road hasn’t been easy as she has achieved despite “the adversity she has faced,” said Brighton band director Mikala Mortensen.

“Hailey is a wonderful musician” as she “is always willing to perform for the community,” Mortensen wrote in her recommendation letter. “Her willingness to share the gift of music with others is unmatched.”

Timm, who played in the symphonic band, also was the drum major in last year’s inaugural marching band and played for the school’s jazz band. 

“As a drum major in the marching band, she leads with kindness, assisting all of them to succeed as individuals and an ensemble. I find Hailey to be particularly exceptional leader because she has endured her fair share of hardships in her young life, yet never lets that get in the way of her dedication to her peers,” Mortensen said, adding that Timm also is an intelligent student.

This fall, Timm will study at USU to become a high school biology teacher. 

Her classmate, Sean Spackman, will attend SLCC. Diagnosed with autism at age 3, he has been involved in student government, Link Crew, National Honor Society, Hope Squad and track. He has learned to face trials head-on.

“I still have autism and I always will have it,” Spackman said. “Instead of letting it hold me back, I learned to overcome the challenges it has brought to my life. I have a very bright future ahead of me.”

Lopez Rodriguez and Camacho also are enrolling at SLCC.

Lopez Rodriguez’s counselor, Suzy Santos, said that as a Diamond Ridge student, Lopez Rodriguez, who wants to be a nurse, learned how to balance high school coursework with her certified nursing assistant courses at CTEC.

“Coming into the program, she couldn’t see how college could happen for her, but through grit and determination, Martha has discovered the thrill of learning new things while achieving big goals,” she said.

Camacho is described as “inquisitive, humble, focused, resilient and compassionate” by her counselor, Nicole Huff, who said that Camacho turned her life around and did “not let grief define her. Hard work, outstanding attitude and determination have resulted in a senior year of nothing but As and Bs.” The high school graduate, who has a “keen eye for fashion,” wants to model in her own clothing designs.

Alta’s Saskia Paepke-Chile, knowing little English, moved to Utah from Brazil her freshman year.

“I was very concerned about her ability to not only acclimate to a new language, country, school and living situation, but also her ability to successfully complete her classes,” wrote her counselor, Jennifer Scheffner, in a recommendation letter. “I quickly learned that Saskia is a young woman with a fiery determination to succeed and an insatiable desire for knowledge. What I did not take into consideration was her determination to learn and incredible work ethic.”

Paepke-Chile, who plans to attend the U of U, was Alta’s Sterling Scholar in World Languages. She also was Alta’s Ballroom Team president and was active with the school’s Latinos in Action and Peer Leadership Team as well as involved in the district’s Student Advisory Council and tutoring Sprucewood Elementary students despite her mother dying from cancer in Brazil.

“She is a prime example of resilience, hard work and immense potential,” Scheffner said.

Corner Canyons’ Abbey Aamodt also has shown her drive to succeed in the face of adversity, Haycock said.

“Early challenges molded her commitment to setting ambitious goals, which included challenging coursework, excellent grades and setting her sights on a college education,” Haycock said. “In the midst of it all, there have been moments of heartache, grief and pain due to family crises, but Abbey rose to these challenges and uses them to gain strength and purpose. She now dedicates herself to leadership and service.”

Aamodt plans to join Paepke-Chile at the U to pursue a degree in architecture and interior design so she can renovate and build homes to give back to the community.

Jordan High graduate Elijah Martin moved 11 times before settling in with his aunt during his high school career, said his teacher Aubrie Grass.

“Elijah had a lot of classes to retake, but he’s done so through hard work and determination,” she said, adding words like respectful, kind, supportive, hardworking, personable and a natural leader to describe her former student.

Martin, who is attending Missouri Valley College this fall, has a passion to become a world history teacher.

“This passion for teaching is already evident in how he helps fellow students to understand difficult assignments, listens well to varying perspectives and makes sure people feel that they are heard and understood. As an African-American male, he sees the need to have more minority males in teaching positions to inspire and connect with minority students,” Grass said.

Martin thanked Canyons Education Foundation.

“You guys are really helping a lot of people,” he said. “Not just me, but then my future family. You’re going to help my kids and their kids’ kids. Two years ago, college wasn’t something I saw myself doing. One financially, it just wasn’t possible for me; and two, I didn’t have the drive for it. A scholarship like this is going to help me help my own kids and other kids one day.”