Hector Rodriguez admits “It’s kind of funny."
The Mullen senior had heard of the Daniels Scholarship as a sophomore and said he had forgotten about it until Mustangs counselor Stephanie Santillo reminded him and encouraged him to apply.
“So I started doing the application,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a very long process, three different essays, you have to detail your activities and work programs … it was very rigorous, but I managed to finish it.”
It has been worth his while with the promise of much more – Rodriguez is a semifinalist for the prestigious honor and said he expects “to hear any day now to see if I’m a finalist.”
If he makes the next round and is chosen as a winner (slated for February), he will have his entire college bill taken care of by the Daniels Fund and can attend any in-state or out-of-state school. And Rodriguez is, of course, in a tight competition – in 2020, some 2,265 hopefuls completed the application process and 212 were winners, 128 were from Colorado, 32 from Wyoming, 28 from Utah and 24 from New Mexico.
It wouldn’t surprise Mullen principal Jeff Howard if Rodriguez earns the scholarship.
“Hector is simply one of the best Mullen High School has to offer,” Howard said. “He is dedicated to academics, caring of his classmates and compassionate toward his community. I cannot really think of a better representative of our community. Hector deserves every accolade he receives and this is a wonderful honor.”
Academically, Rodriguez said he allowed his grades to lapse a bit the past school year, but currently owns a 3.98 grade-point average. He’s also involved in Drum Line, Cyber Security, Game Development and Liturgy Club.
“He has a huge role in our liturgical life at school and he’s a person of faith,” Mullen Pastoral Director Rita Niblack said. “He participates all of the time at Mass … all I have to do is ask him and he’ll be right there. I’ve found him to be valuable with his faithfulness.”
Not surprisingly, Rodriguez is considering a religious life as one of his career paths. His college choices have been narrowed to the University of Denver and Benedictine in Kansas. Becoming a Lasallian Brother won’t be a reach.
“I’d like to help low-income Hispanic students,” he said.
The resident of Aurora, who also works at CommonGround Golf Course, has the ability to express himself fully as evidenced by winning a national championship in speech and debate the past summer.
Mullen speech and debate coach Mike Trevithick called Rodriguez “exceptional ... Hector is such an amazing young man and we are really proud of him.”
Participating in the speech and debate program, Rodriguez said, is enticing because “it gives me the ability to talk with a bunch of people on certain issues in the world and makes me feel I can do something about it. Every issue can’t be solved if no one talks about it.”
Winning the scholarship, he said, “would mean the whole world to me. It would be easier on my parents. They’ve struggled to work hard for the education I have now. It would ease the load on them and I want to give back to them.”
All told, he’s grateful to be a Mustang.
“The Mullen community is great academically,” he said. “It’s fantastic. I couldn’t wish for anything better.”