By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota National Guardsman’s legacy is living on after his tragic death.

Candis Folkens, James Rogers’ sister, presented the inaugural James Rogers Memorial Scholarship Tuesday to two seniors at St. James High School, Rogers’ alma mater.

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“[James] was a huge nerd,” Folkens said. “Growing up together he’s always getting the As.”

Education was a pillar in Rogers’ life, along with service. When he graduated high school, he enrolled at St. Cloud State before being deployed to Kuwait and Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard.

“He was very driven to go and do more like with his life,” said Beth Rogers, James’ mother.

Shortly after getting his degree in 2019, Rogers died in a tragic Black Hawk helicopter crash that also killed two other guardsmen.

“It doesn’t get easier,” Folkens said. “It feels like it was today.”

James Rogers (credit: The Rogers Family)

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Now, Rogers’ family has found a way to turn their tragedy into hope for someone else. The scholarship is an outlet for their love for him.

“What we’re looking for is the next James,” Folkens said. “And when I say that, we are looking for a well-rounded individual, we’re looking for someone that has a work ethic and can dream big.”

Karla Beck, the high school’s principal and a former teacher of Rogers’, says he lit up every room he walked into.

“When Jim, James’ dad, reached out to me and said, ‘We would like to start this scholarship,’ I have to admit I had a little tear because it is just a wonderful tribute,” Beck said.

Beth Rogers says her son was a role model to her, and she looked on proudly Tuesday as the two students received the scholarships.

“To be able to help someone else, you know, on their career, it’s a wonderful thing,” she said.

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Each student received $1,000. The family hopes to expand it to more Minnesota high schools in the future.

David Schuman