Legally blind Eagle Valley graduate headed to Colorado School of Mines earns a $10,000 scholarship

July 18, 2023

Posted by Vail Daily

Gypsum’s Caden Roebke is one of 15 students from around the country that received the merit-based scholarship

Caden Roebke, a recent graduate of Eagle Valley High School, is taking strides toward a career in STEM with the help of a $10,000 scholarship from Lighthouse Guild. Roebke will be attending the Colorado School of Mines in the fall.

Lighthouse Guild is a New York City-based organization that provides services and resources to help visually impaired individuals achieve their goals.

“It’s challenging for young people today to achieve their higher education goals, and students who are visually impaired face particular challenges,” said Calvin W. Roberts, the president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild, in a press release. “We are pleased to support these outstanding students, so they have a clearer path to success in their chosen careers.” 

Roebke was one of 15 students from around the country that received the merit-based scholarship from the organization this year.

Roebke was born very prematurely, 25 weeks and five days into his mom’s pregnancy. He weighed 1 pound, 3 ounces at birth, and spent the first four months of his life in the hospital getting healthy. His premature birth caused him to be completely blind in his right eye. He has 20/200 vision in his left eye with glasses.

So, while he can still see, he is “technically legally blind,” Roebke said.

However, for him being visually impaired is “all I’ve ever known, so I’ve really learned to function with it,” Roebke said in an interview with the Vail Daily.

In Roebke’s application essay for the Lighthouse Guide Scholarship, he wrote of this story: “My goal in telling you this is not to make you feel sorry for me. Instead, I want to show you the challenge I’ve had to overcome my whole life to become the person and student I am today.”

When asked to describe himself to the Vail Daily, Roebke first used the word: “student,” adding that while he’s in school, that is his primary focus.

“But first and foremost, after that, I would say I’m a musician — I play guitar, piano, and sing,” he said.

Hard work really pays off

Like many Eagle County and Colorado kids, Caden Roebke said he learned to ski at a young age. However, snowmobiling has taken over as his preferred winter sport.

Also, growing up in Colorado, and Eagle County more specifically, he also loves the outdoors.

“I’ve been skiing since I was 3, but now my dad’s gotten me into snowmobiling, so that’s really my preferred winter activity. And then I hike with my mom a lot in the summer,” Roebke said.

“I can do these things because I don’t let my visual impairment limit me,” he wrote of his passions in his essay.

That’s not to say he hasn’t faced challenges or had impacts as a result of the visual impairment.

“In an academic sense, schoolwork takes me longer than it does for my peers. So I’ve had to put much more dedication and time into achieving highly in school than maybe my peers have just because of my vision and because it takes longer for my eyes to process information than other people,” Roebke said. “I will continue to face those challenges, but nowadays, with technology, there are lots of ways to overcome those.”

This, he added, has taught him that hard work really pays off.

“I had a goal going into high school and graduating with a 4.0 GPA — and I met that goal. That took a lot of hard work to do, but it eventually paid off and I graduated with honors at my high school. So I think that’s really what it’s taught me, is that you put in the work and you will reap the rewards,” Roebke said.

This dedication is something he’s learned to apply to all areas of his life, including his passion for music. A couple of years ago, he decided to learn the guitar, and through continual hard work, he has gotten better and better.

Outside of his academic achievements, Caden Roebke has dedicated himself to music.

“What I’ve learned out of music is just that practice pays off. Even this year, doing stuff with music, I’ve seen great improvements in my abilities, just from the practice and stuff that I’ve done this year,” Roebke said.

‘Math runs in my blood’

These lessons will serve Roebke well as he heads to Golden to attend the Colorado School of Mines this fall. While Roebke is starting his freshman year undecided in his major, he has always known he wanted to pursue a major and career in STEM.

Not only has he always loved and excelled in math, but also “it’s in my blood,” he said.

“That’s what my dad majored in, and my mom was an accountant before I was born, so it’s like math runs in my blood, and I’ve always loved numbers and things like that. STEM was just naturally something I’ve always liked,” Roebke said.

Starting school with an undeclared major, he said he’s excited to explore all his options at Mines, but is most interested in computer science and applied mathematics.

Beyond academics though, Roebke is most looking forward to exploring all the new opportunities Mines will offer. This includes making new friends, possibly joining a church worship team — and maybe even starting a rock band.

Caden Roebke — alongside Montana Palmer and Christiana San Diego — performs “Rivers and Roads” at the 2023 Eagle Valley High School commencement in Gypsum. Roebke hopes to continue pursuing his passion for music in college.

“I had great high school friends, but I’m really looking forward to meeting people who I have even more in common with. And I’ve already been to some events at Mines and really felt like I’ve met some people who I’ve had a lot in common with,” he said. “That’s really what I’m looking forward to in college: the new experience, new friends, and continuing my studies.”

For Roebke, all the lessons he’s learned, challenges he’s overcome and experiences he’s had will guide him through college and into his career.

“With my visual impairment, I know college will be more challenging for me, but I’m ready to take on that challenge. I hope to inspire other people with visual impairments to realize they don’t have to let their vision limit them from accomplishing their goals,” Roebke wrote in his Lighthouse Guild essay.

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Lighthouse Guild is dedicated to providing exceptional services that inspire people who are visually impaired to attain their goals.