The Elevations Foundation supports local teens with continuing education scholarships. Since 2010, these funds have made it possible for young Coloradans to attend college, technical schools and higher education institutions to best prepare them for their futures. We often check in with the scholars.
Recently we caught up with Fiona Lighthiser, a 2021 graduate of Monarch High School in the Boulder Valley School District.
Lighthiser currently attends George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where she studies government and international politics with a concentration in international relations. Her interest in these areas stems from a love of travel, learning new languages and engaging with other cultures.
“I think there is a power in human connection that isn’t appreciated or explored enough,” Lighthiser said. “Also, I have always had an interest in international security as well as development and hope to explore those areas more.”
Lighthiser is on track to graduate from George Mason University in 2025.
High school experience
Before heading off to college, Lighthiser was active in many clubs, hobbies and volunteer activities. Her passions include exploring Latin culture (music, dance, cooking), singing, playing guitar and soccer.
One experience that made a lasting impression was her time as the Vice President of the Spanish Honor Society.
“Through this position, I helped build a tutoring program for elementary and middle schoolers in the area that connected kids with high school tutors in the society chapter,” Lighthiser said. “These students were primarily from Hispanic families so being able to connect, talk, and help them with homework, reading, etc., played an influential role in what I chose to study in college.”
As she made plans for schooling, Lighthiser applied to colleges in Colorado and beyond. She decided on a school near Washington D.C. to be in a community with a strong international relations presence. She also was attracted to the study abroad program for first-year students at George Mason University.
“The Elevations Foundation was essential in helping to fund my opportunity to attend college out of state, and all the experiences which came after,” Lighthiser said.
Living the college life
During her freshman year, Lighthiser spent the spring 2022 semester studying in Quito, Ecuador, at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. She enjoyed improving her Spanish-speaking skills, exploring Ecuador and Peru and meeting new people.
“I love to travel and learn about new places and cultures,” Lighthiser said. “I have been to Spain, Norway, England, Ireland, Peru and Ecuador. My interest has grown in Spanish and Latin cultures as I get older and learn more about my family in Argentina.
“I grew up with my grandmother (from Argentina) living in close proximity, but since returning from Ecuador I have been able to speak in Spanish with her more and delve more into parts of my heritage I had never connected with before. This experience has grown my idea of what I want to do in the future and what is most meaningful to me in life.”
When she’s not traveling or attending classes, Lighthiser enjoys coaching at Coerver Colorado* where she develops youth soccer players’ techniques and skills. She started as a player in the organization and eventually became employed in 2019. Since she’s in Virginia for college, she coaches during the summers and over winter break when she is back home in Colorado.
*Links to third-party site
During her first year in college, Lighthiser also joined the Latin Dance Club, was the captain of a co-ed intramural soccer team and visited D.C. and Georgetown many times.
A future of travel and family time
As she dreams about where life will take her after college, Lighthiser plans to gain many, many more international experiences.
“I hope to travel to Argentina to visit all my family who lives there,” Lighthiser said. “Also, I want to explore all of Latin America, learn Brazilian Portuguese, continue to perfect my Spanish, coach soccer when I can and learn more about Latin dance styles and music in general.”
And when it comes to a career path, she says her goal is to work a job that allows for ample travel and living around Latin America where she can use her Spanish-speaking skills, meet new people and change the perspective people have about Latin America to be more positive and accepting. And of course, she plans to experience as much new food, dancing and music as possible.
Lighthiser shared some wise words of advice for graduating high school seniors who are headed to college this fall.
“Never say ‘no’ to a new experience,” Lighthiser said. “Of course, one needs to be aware of their personal safety, but outside of that, being open and willing to try new things allows you to learn more about yourself and find what is important to you.
“If you have the opportunity to travel or study abroad, do so! Living in a different country for more than a month is an incredible learning experience!”
Elevations Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that has provided over $570,000 in scholarships since 2010 to support college-bound students in our community. Find out more about Elevations Foundation scholarships and please consider donating to our scholarship program so we may continue making college a reality for promising young people like Fiona Lighthiser.