Receiving the Horatio Alger Scholarship and being named a Horatio Alger National Scholar resonates on many personal levels for a North Surry High School senior.
First and foremost, the experience has given Jackie-Lynn Albright perspective. The award draws its inspiration from Horatio Alger, an American author from the 1800s whose novels were noted for impoverished characters rising from humble backgrounds to middle class security through hard work.
“Before this, I felt I was an anomaly,” said Albright. “It was odd and nice and refreshing to know I wasn’t the only one (to overcome personal adversity). There were others there with me then who have succeeded as well.”
Albright said the $20,000 scholarship is based on criteria including academic excellence, character and overcoming personal adversity. She said out of 40,000 who applied nationally only 106 are chosen from across the nation. She said applicants for the honor typically embody character traits such as honesty, dedication, hard work and overcome circumstances which hinder many. She recalled the chilling effect it had on her life and the lives of her three siblings when her father died when she was 10 years old.
“My mom was devastated,” recalled Albright. “This was big for me. I moved (with my family) shortly after that as well. It all seemed to be happening at one time.”
Albright said she had to write six essays as part of the application for the scholarship in addition to getting letters of recommendation and doing research on the members of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which is the group into which scholarship recipients are inducted.
Grade-point average, extracurricular activities and volunteer work also are examined as part of the application process to the association. Albright’s extracurricular activities include Key Club, soccer, Upward Bound, cross country and the North Surry Scholar Bowl. She volunteers as a math tutor and also works on her aunt Traher Albright’s horse farm.
“I rarely ride them, but I take care of the horses. It’s something responsible that clicks with me,” said Albright. “The most rewarding thing I do is math tutor. I get to watch other people learn.”
The Horatio Alger Awards activities were held in Washington, D.C., to present the Horatio Alger Award to new members of the association. More than 1,000 members and guests in addition to Albright attended the annual awards dinner. Association members, organizations and individuals purchased tables for the dinner, or if unable to attend, to make a general contribution in support of the association’s educational programs. These contributions underwrite the programs offered by the group.
“I found out this group has members such as Oprah and Brad Pitt as members,” said Albright. Another member who made an impression on the Greyhound senior was Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas, who she met at the spring event.
She recalled how Thomas is noted for his focus on the Horatio Alger Association and education. Albright said hosts at a meal in Washington noticed her southern accent and she told them to “just bring on the sweet tea jokes.” Her comments were followed by loud laughter. She turned to see who was appreciating her humor. It was Thomas. A short time later he posed with her for a picture. Other personalities she met included actor Brad Pitt and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who are both members of the association.
“When you look at the statistics of how many make it out, it’s one thing. I have met these important people who made it with what they have and are now helpings kids in communities,” said Albright. “Brad Pitt put his arm around my shoulder which means by association I have also touched Angelina Jolie. This was the first time I got to meet other people celebrating that they had come back from adversity.”
Other activities before the induction included touring the U.S. Department of State and Supreme Court. Albright was deeply impressed to see the 1783 Treaties of Versailles and Thomas Jefferson’s desk. Just like Alger’s novels where a character is helped by others, Albright acknowledges she hasn’t done this alone.
“My family has been so supportive of me through all this which has helped me the most,” said Albright. She would like to attend the University of Rochester in New York and major in international relations and Japanese. Her goal is to be an ambassador to Japan.
“I’m trying not to let senioritis affect me,”said Albright, laughing. She said she has four Advanced Placement courses this year as well as three soccer games a week. She said she is proud of the fact she has only scored below an A in one physical education class and has never had below a B grade in school.
“It was so rewarding to meet people like that and see their generosity,” concluded Albright. “When someone told me I’d never get to see these people again, I assured them I would not lose touch. I’d call them again. To see these important people give with no personal gain in a time when others aren’t was amazing.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.