Five Colorado teenagers vaccinated against coronavirus won the first wave of $50,000 scholarships, Gov. Jared Polis announced Thursday.
The teens -- whose are all 14, 15 or 16 -- are in high school and span the state. They appeared with Polis at a news conference Thursday morning, along with a sixth teen who turned down the scholarship money because he already had a full-ride scholarship.
Each will have $50,000 -- likely more, depending on how much the savings grow -- to use on any form of higher education, inside or outside of Colorado.
"I was so happy to get vaccinated," said Liam Atkins, a 15-year-old student in Boulder who is spending his summer working at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Crested Butte. "Doing my part means I can look forward to being full time in the classroom next year and not having to worry about switching to online school or another hybrid schedule."
The scholarship program was announced last week as part of the state's broader vaccine incentive program, which includes $1 million prizes for five vaccinated adults.
The scholarship contest is open to anyone between the ages of 12 and 17 who has been vaccinated. Polis said all of the winners announced Thursday were teenagers and in high school.
The other winners were Natalie M. from Centennial; Arianna Garcia, 14, from Longmont; Brett Cheney, 16, from Mesa County; and Gabriella Sleight, 14, from Littleton. Natalie's age and full last name were not provided.
"I'm just excited to get back to normal," Brett said. "It's been a long two years of us just dancing around trying to figure everything out, trying to get everyone vaccinated."
Twenty more students will be selected to win $50,000 scholarships over the next several weeks.
Vaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 17 are eligible and automatically entered to win once they are inoculated against coronavirus.
The next five winners will be notified early next week and publicly announced June 17.