Student of the Week: April 20, 2009

Essay on rumble strips earns Palisade teen full scholarship

Rumble strips not only save lives, but they’re also paying for Taylor Cunningham’s college tuition.

Taylor will attend the Colorado School of Mines this fall on a full-tuition scholarship. He earned the E-days scholarship with his essay about the greatest invention in the past 75 years.

When visiting the school in Golden, prospective students were told to be creative with their essays. On the drive home, Taylor and his parents ran over some rumble strips, and the idea for his essay was born. Taylor found out earlier this month that he had been awarded the scholarship.

The Palisade resident has been home-schooled since the fourth grade, and he recently joined the Mesa Valley Vision Home & Community Program.

The program, an accredited K-12 contract public school, opened this year. It gives home-schooled students an official diploma, grade point average if they want it and access to state education funds.

Taylor said he enjoyed being home-schooled because it gave him the chance to experience things he wouldn’t have otherwise.

“It was nice because I got to focus on my music some and train my dogs to do hunt tests,” Taylor said.

The family also vacationed in Mexico, Canada and Washington, D.C., in the middle of a traditional school year.

He became active on the Mesa State College campus in the orchestra and in classes such as calculus and computer programming.

“I really feel like I’ve gotten the best of both worlds,” he said.

This year, he is concert master for the Mesa State Orchestra. The position makes him the right-hand man to Carlos Elias, the strings and orchestra director at the college.

Taylor took violin lessons from Elias more than five years ago and joined the orchestra. His duties as concert master include tuning the orchestra, starting rehearsal if Elias is late and performing solos for the violin section.

“It’s been a great experience,” Taylor said.

As a member of the Mesa Valley Vision Home & Community Program, Taylor had the chance to try out for the Colorado All-States Orchestra, which is open to public-school students only.

Potential members do a tryout via tape and, if chosen, they spend a weekend practicing for the Saturday night concert on the Front Range.

Cunningham made the state cut, and he called the experience, “probably the highlight of my senior year. It was such an awesome program.”

Back on the Western Slope, Elias and the college orchestra will miss Taylor when he heads to Golden for school.

“I will miss him, but it’s good for him,” Elias said. “I wasn’t surprised that they offered him the scholarship.”

GPA: 4.15

Parents: Trent and Carolyn Cunningham.

Preferred college: Colorado School of Mines.

Where he see’s himself in five years: Maybe working on a master’s degree at Mines, or
working at a computer component company designing more efficient computer parts.

Favorite music: Classical and country.

Favorite television show: “The Office.”

Personal hero: Parents. Why?: “They really worked hard to live the American dream out here
in the orchards, and they have really helped me with my homeschooling.”

I’m most proud of: E-Days scholarship he earned to attend Colorado School of Mines that will pay four years of tuition.


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