Nearly 1,700 graduating high school seniors from around Colorado applied for the 2022 Boettcher Foundation Scholarship—hoping to at least make it to the final round of interviews. Now it turns out that two this year’s recipients are Front Range Community College concurrent enrollment students.
Adithya Bhaskara of Silver Creek High School and Arianna McCarty of Centaurus High School were awarded the coveted scholarship that recognizes Colorado’s top students by providing them the funds to attend the Colorado school of their choice.
It’s an honor that many seniors hope for, but one that’s not easy to earn. Only 48 other students from around the state were named 2022 Boettcher Scholars.
Adithya Bhaskara: Furthering His Passion for Math and Science
Adithya has taken five courses at FRCC, four of which were concurrent enrollment classes that earned him credit at both Silver Creek and FRCC. One was an introduction to programming (C++) course that he took for fun.
“I did concurrent enrollment because I’d taken the highest math and science classes at my high school my junior year and wanted to continue my physics and math education,” says Adithya, who grew up in Longmont.
“It was a great experience. I learned many valuable things such as how to write technically using [software system] LaTeX, work through mathematical proofs, and write more-advanced lab reports than I had done in high school.”
Undergraduate Research with an FRCC Professor
During his final semester at FRCC, Adithya did an independent study with Kenneth Monks, Ph.D., a mathematics professor at FRCC’s Boulder County Campus. He used the Shoelace Lemma (a simple geometric result about the areas of polygons) to prove a special case of Green’s Theorem (a fundamental theorem in multivariable calculus).
He went on to present his work at the 2022 Pikes Peak Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Conference hosted by Colorado College in February.
“I’d meet Dr. Monks every week and show him what I had done and we’d talk through where to go from there,” he says.
“It was wonderful to continue working with Dr. Monks in a research capacity after taking his Calculus III class.”
Headed to CU Boulder for Computer Science
Adithya will start college at the University of Colorado-Boulder this fall as a computer science major—and possibly a math major too. The addition of the math major, he says, is largely due to the positive experience he’s had with Monks and another FRCC math professor, Aaron Allen—who happens to be a former FRCC student of Monks. Adithya plans to work in either academia doing research and teaching, or in the field of computer science.
For the last two years, he has worked as a cybersecurity student designer at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools. At the center, he serves on the cybersecurity leadership team and the socially assistive robotics team, teaches classes, and also facilitated the district’s participation in CyberPatriot, a national cybersecurity competition for middle and high school students. In May 2022, he presented details about cybersecurity pathways offered through St. Vrain Valley Schools to Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
Arianna McCarty: A Future in Medicine and Research
Arianna has always been an advanced student eager to work ahead, so when the pandemic forced students around the globe online in spring 2020—her sophomore year—she made the decision to make the most of things.
The Lafayette native had skipped kindergarten and seventh grade, but did a gap year of home school enrichment after middle school in order to “not start high school as a 12-year-old.” For her junior year, she transferred from Centaurus to Colorado Early Colleges so she could load up on concurrent enrollment courses.
She’s taken 12 classes through CEC and Centaurus’s concurrent enrollment agreement with FRCC—eight as a junior and four as a senior. “What I liked especially is that I have been able to take classes geared toward my specific interests,” she says.
Getting Ready for Med School
Arianna has her long-term sights set on a dual MD/PhD program so she can eventually become a surgeon who also does research. “I’ve been able to get some of the foundational college courses out of the way so that when I get to CU, I can hit the ground running.”
Headed to CU-Boulder for Chemical and Biological Engineering
Arianna wants to work in the area of biological engineering. At FRCC, she did two independent study courses with Monks—both guided readings of books on complex mathematical concepts by University of Pennsylvania Professor Herbert S. Wilf.
Arianna joined another FRCC concurrent enrollment student, Carter Kruse—now a Dartmouth College student—to write a paper entitled, “Fibonacci Boundary Value Problem.” The team presented it at the 2021 Pikes Peak Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Conference.
Working with Monks isn’t Arianna’s only academic research experience. Since her junior year, she has been a research assistant for the BioFrontiers Institute at CU. There she’s been doing computational genomics research and coding metric analyses of DNA sequencing quality.
When she’s not in the lab or the classroom, Arianna is likely on the stage doing a play through the Centaurus Theatre Company.
Curious, Enthusiastic and Appreciative Students
To have worked closely with not just one, but two Boettcher Scholars, is nothing short of an honor, says Ken Monks.
“Arianna is ravenously hungry for knowledge and so curious and enthusiastic,” he says. “Adithya has this natural intuition for asking great questions, like those he asked about how to prove a theorem, that quite frankly, were questions I had never considered. It was incredible.”
“They were both just excited to do this type of work, which made it even more fun for me,” Monks adds. “These are two of the most appreciative students I have ever had.”
Recognizing Their Teacher
A third recognition from the Boettcher Foundation came when Monks was named a recipient of the 2022 Teacher Recognition Award, which honors standout Colorado teachers for their exemplary influence in educating some of the state’s top students. He will receive a grant that he has earmarked for starting a middle school math competition at FRCC.
Arianna, who nominated him, says her experience learning from Monks—and doing undergraduate research with him—was transformative. “[He] got me excited about math again, even during remote learning,” she says.
A Passion for Math—and for Helping Students
“[Dr. Monks] cares a lot about creating a fantastic learning environment, which is conducive to wanting to go that extra mile as a student,” says Arianna.
“When he offered the independent study opportunity, I couldn’t say no. He would have us analyze primary sources of mathematical concepts to understand the ‘why’ and I just loved that. He’s someone I wanted to work with.”
Adithya agrees. “I’ve seen Dr. Monks explain concepts to students who understand math really well and to those who find it difficult. It doesn’t matter who his audience is: He uses the same passion and excitement. He cares a lot about students and is very deserving of this award.”
For Monks, who joined FRCC after earning a PhD at Colorado State University in mathematics in 2012, the Boettcher award was an unexpected accolade. “It adds that feel-good factor to what I get to do every day,” he says.
Students With a Desire to Learn
Monks says he appreciates the range of students he gets to teach at FRCC. “The students who are here all have one thing in common: they have chosen to be here,” he says.
“Some came here as highly motivated high school students like Arianna and Adithya, seeking to be challenged and prepare for college. Others maybe worked in a job or career for a while before deciding that a degree would help them move up and earn more. Some never went to college right out of high school but have decided to do so.”
No Big Surprise
While Monks’s teaching award was an unexpected honor, he says he was not surprised when he learned that both of his students were named 2022 Boettcher Scholars.
“Arianna runs middle school outreach theater camps and is incredible at everything she does. Adithya is a talented student with a bright future who wants to make a difference. I could go on for a long time about both of them, but I will simply say they are amazing and deserving.”
Get ready, CU. The class of 2022 is coming your way—and we think these two incoming first-year students are poised do great things.