(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Loud cheers could be heard from the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum on Tuesday afternoon with the surprise announcement of 12 high schoolers who were named Daniels Scholars.

“We have a lot of the best high school students in the Pikes Peak region coming down to the Pioneers Museum, thinking that they’re being honored by the Mayor of Colorado Springs for their outstanding academic performance in high school,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said. “Only when they get down here will they be informed that each of them has actually won a Daniels Fund scholarship.”

Students from all different high schools in Colorado Springs sat in the front row with family and friends behind them.

For one scholar, Israel Oketunmbi, he had no idea about the big announcement.

“I was told that we were coming in here for outstanding student reception and I honestly the first person I told was my principal so she, so she came, she was excited, really excited about it,” Oketunmbi said. “I was really excited. I didn’t really know what it was about.” 

For another scholar, Eli Hauber, he jumped out of his chair to go congratulate all the students on the exciting news.

Eli Hauber congratulated other students on the exciting news of being named Daniels Scholars.

“So I wanted everyone to feel included in that moment and make everyone else feel like this is such an incredible accomplishment and they should be proud of themselves,” said Hauber.

Students congratulated and hugged each other after the announcement.

Upon entering their senior year of high school, these students applied for the Daniels Fund. According to the scholarship application, it is given to students with ‘great potential, strong character, and big dreams.’

“Bill Daniels believed that education was a game changer and he wanted to give young people a chance to really have that opportunity to become educated and then give back to their communities,” said CEO of Daniels Fund, Hanna Skandera.

Mayor Suthers reflected on his own college experience in which he received a scholarship to go to college.

“My father died when I was a young boy and I was able to get a full scholarship from a foundation to the University of Notre Dame,” Suthers said. “That was a life-changing event.”

Daniels scholars smile with the Daniels Fund team and Mayor Suthers.

The news on Tuesday afternoon changed students’ lives and left them hopeful for the future.

“I mean, it means a lot. I know I was going to continue doing a lot of the same thing, serving my community wherever I was going to be and leading a life of purpose,” Hauber said. “But with this scholarship, I’m able to kind of do that in a place that really means something to me and where I really feel passionate about going.”

The room filled with high emotion at the exciting news, with families hugging each other and calling up loved ones to share the news.

Israel and his mother share a hug on the big news.

“Some of these kids literally did jump up and down,” Skandera said. “So it’s just incredible… I talked to a couple of moms, they’re like, ‘my daughter is going to school and she gets to go to the school she wants to go to and she wasn’t going to get to do that’ and that makes me feel like, wow, a life has changed forever.” 

This month, 230 students across four states will be told they are Daniels Scholars and will receive up to $100,000 to go towards any two- or four-year accredited college or university in the United States.

The application will open online in September for students heading into their senior year of high school.

“I’m so grateful. And if you’re a junior that is in high school in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, or Utah, I would totally suggest doing something like this if you qualify,” Hauber said. “And it’s been an incredible experience and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.”