Local senior earns Horatio Alger Scholarship Award
Austin Blais is the first Parkite in history to receive a Horatio Alger Scholarship Award. The $10,000 scholarship is awarded to 100 students nationwide on an annual basis.
As a recipient, he was flown to Washington, D.C. from April 5-9, where he met members of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, including Oprah Winfrey, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, baseball Hall of Fame member Lou Brock and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The scholarship is possible through donations made by members of the association.
High school seniors who have overcome adversity are eligible for the award. They must also show an active interest in giving back to the community as well as be committed to earning a college degree.
Blais, who began working at a very young age, has maintained as many as four jobs at once. He remembers wishing not to have so many responsibilities early in life, and said depression hit him during his freshman and sophomore years in high school.
He said he has realized life isn’t about money.
"If you have a purpose and a goal, that’s what life is all about," he said.
Joining the Key Club in high school gave him a sense of direction. Blais has since become president of the National Honors Society, and is involved in the Interact Club and a number of other extracurricular activities, including the soccer team.
Some nights he gets home from work around 11 p.m. and does homework until 2 a.m. then gets up early for school. While Blais said he sometimes gets overwhelmed, he has learned how to make the work lighter. Prioritizing has helped, and he is sure to include time for friends, who he says are always there for him.
"You can have fun while working hard," he said.
Winning the scholarship and traveling to the nation’s capital was a life-changing experience, he said.
When meeting Thomas, Blaise asked him why he takes the time to shake the hand of every scholarship recipient.
He replied, "Because no one did for me when I was younger."
Being introduced to Thomas was a highlight for Blais but he found the entire experience a moving one.
"It was very inspiring because these people are all so giving," he said.
Blais said he would like to do something similar with himself.
"I want to base my life off giving to other people," he said.
After graduating from college, he plans to join the Peace Corps and help Third World countries build infrastructure and people there get an education.
He has narrowed his college choices down to the University of Virginia, Boston University or Seattle University.
His newly earned scholarship will help him do that. Getting the award, he said, was a great moment.
"I felt proud, I felt humbled," he said, adding that he was very fortunate to grow up in such a supportive community.
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