Spotlight
Daniel Armijo
Year: Freshman
Major: Engineering-Electrical Specialty



David Pesek

Year: Senior
Major: Engineering-Electrical Specialty




Daniel Armijo
Year: Freshman
Major: Engineering-Electrical Specialty

Free college—“it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am really lucky to have,” said Mines freshman, Daniel Armijo. Daniel, a former Aurora Central High School student, earned a Daniels Fund Scholarship that will finance his education at any accredited two- or four-year college or university in the United States. The comprehensive scholarship covers tuition, room and board, a laptop computer, health benefits, and transportation costs. “It’s one of the most prestigious scholarships in the state,” said Bruce Goetz, director of admissions at Mines. “They consider much more than just academic performance.”

Daniel grew up with his grandparents, Cathlene and Dan Santos, who recognized his potential when he was very young. “He learned to make change at the age of four,” said Cathlene, who used to take him with her when she went to sell lunch from her mobile kitchen trailer to workers in the Park Hill warehouse district. “If someone gave him five dollars, he could give them exactly the right change,” she said.

Not surprisingly, he excelled in elementary and middle school. At Aurora Central High he was inducted into the National Honor Society and the National Technical Honor Society. He received the Faculty Award for Exceptional Senior, and as a junior received the Masonic Officers Award for Outstanding Achievement. By the age of 13, he had earned a black belt in five martial arts—Chinese kempo, judo, aikido, kung fu and karate. Now he’s on the Mines wrestling team. “Wrestling is my passion… it keeps me focused,” said Daniel. “You get out exactly what you put in."

Daniel is the first person in his family to graduate high school, and he did it as salutatorian of his class with a GPA of 4.12. “My grandparents are the proudest they have ever been,” he said. This is certainly true, but there have been lots of proud moments—not just watching Daniel achieve, but also watching him give back. Community service has been an important part of Daniel’s life. In fact, it was exposure to the needs within his community that helped him decide on a career in engineering. As he said, it made him want to be “a part of something that makes living more efficient.” A talent for math helped too. Thanks to the Daniels Fund, he has the opportunity to fulfill these ambitions: “Without this scholarship, I wouldn’t be on a college campus bettering my future,” he said. “It’s opening doors for me that I might never have knocked on.”


David Pesek
Year: Senior
Major: Engineering-Electrical Specialty

Last season David Pesek, the Orediggers 2008 starting quarterback, led the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference for total offense and passing. His success was hard-earned: he invested about 40 hours a week into football while balancing a 17-credit-hour academic schedule. This year he’s putting the same amount of time into football, carrying 16 credit hours and working as a peer mentor for a freshman orientation class. David works hard on the field and in the classroom, and his efforts have been rewarded: recruiters don’t interview him these days, they try to sell him on the idea of working for them.

But he’s not making any commitments just yet. His career objectives shifted recently after spending seven days working in a refugee community in Afghanistan. He was shocked by the stark inequities: “We have so much and they have so little,” he said. David’s church began supporting the 2,000-strong Pakistani, Tajik and Pashtun community in 2007, after they were summarily relocated from Kabul by the Afghan government to Barek Aub, a dry, bare and inhospitable area one hour north of the capital. “They were left with little more than plastic tarps and the clothes on their back… [the community] was built to fail,” David said, pointing out that there was no reliable water supply and it was surrounded by landmines.

Thankfully, the community caught the attention of Sozo International and the UN High Commission for Refugees, and Barek Aub now has a water supply, and the able-bodied members of the community have built a number of permanent houses. Their current goal is to complete a facility that will serve as both a school and a clinic, which David and his church team worked on for the majority of their visit.

Although he is proud of his weeklong contribution to the project, he describes his visit in terms of what he came away with: “They are starting from nothing, but they have such hope that they will have something in the future. I think that each one of us learned something from the hope and optimism painted on the faces of the Barek Aub children.”

David was so inspired that he spent the return flight formulating a plan for how he would return to Afghanistan. He wants to find a way to work full-time in the region after he completes his master’s degree in mechanical engineering, which he’ll begin in August 2009. “Building hospitals and schools and relationships—that’s how you are going to defeat terrorism,” says David, who once had plans to join the military. “The Taliban recruits people with no hope for the future. If you give people a future, then they aren’t going to join the Taliban.”