As the only Douglas County student to win a 2013 Daniels Fund scholarship, Emily Thermos stood alone at the state Capitol on April 22. When the winners’ names were announced, she burst into tears. A photograph of that moment wound up on “The Tonight Show,” with host Jay Leno quipping it appeared the lone crying girl hadn’t won the scholarship.
Emily remembers the moment as overwhelming.
“I’ve saved money baby-sitting and was going to take out loans,” the ThunderRidge High School senior said. “It was such a relief to know I’m going to be able to enjoy college without having to worry so much.”
Emily’s dad David, who went with Emily to the Capitol, had a similar reaction.
“I immediately broke out into tears,” he said. “I hugged the guy next to me and I didn’t even know him.”
The four-year Daniels Fund scholarship is based on academic achievement, financial need and character, and is awarded to about 250 students annually in a four-state area.
Emily, who volunteers in Littleton Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, plans to attend Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu to study nursing.
“I want to be a baby nurse,” she said. “I always knew that’s what I wanted to do because that’s what I was.”
Weighing less than three pounds at birth, Emily spent her first moments in an NICU.
She and her twin sister, Katie, were raised with a strong work ethic.
“I learned early on that to be successful, you have to work hard,” she said.
In addition to her hospital volunteerism, Emily is president of the National Honor Society, plays three sports and is a violinist in the school orchestra.
“I’m not good at relaxing,” Emily said. “Time management was a big thing I learned early on.”
Knowing she would have to finance the bulk of her college education, she secured scholarships to cover about one-third of her tuition, planning to work and take out loans to cover the rest. That plan now has changed.
David and Mara Thermos credit Emily for seeking out the Daniels Fund scholarship. With both girls headed to college in the fall, the family’s need was significant.
“I wish we weren’t in the position where we were needing that to happen, but we did,” David Thermos said. “This provided an opportunity for us to help her sister out more. (Without the scholarship), it was going to be very difficult for them both to get through.”
The Thermos twins are close but not alike. Emily is introverted and scientific, and Katie — who will attend CU-Boulder — flamboyant and artistic.
“They shared the same womb and they shared the same bedroom for 18 years,” he said. “Now they’re going to be 3,000 miles apart.”
Emily already anticipates homesickness.
“I’m going all by myself,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. I have so much ahead of me, but it’s hard to leave.”