Volunteer's Noel Reed was one of 106 Horatio Alger National Scholarship winners for 2014.
Volunteer High School senior Noel Reed has endured many hardships in her young life. But after being named a 2014 Horatio Alger National Scholar and traveling to Washington, D.C., for the National Scholars Conference, she looks to her future with the utmost enthusiasm.
"I just want to make something of myself and be productive for the community," Reed said sincerely.
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization established in 1947 and named for famed 19th century "rags-to -riches" author Horatio Alger Jr., honors "the achievements of outstanding individuals" and encourages under-privileged youth "to pursue their dreams through higher education."
The organization initiated a scholarship program in 1984 to allow low-income students demonstrating strong morals and determination in the face of adversity the chance to attend college. Over the past 30 years, Horatio Alger Association has provided over $100 million in state and national scholarships. According to a press release, "in 2014 alone, the Association awarded more than $9 million in need-based scholarships to 921 deserving, at-risk youth. Of these remarkable young people, 106 received the Horatio Alger National Scholarship, valued at $21,000."
Reed, a Church Hill, Tenn., native and one of this year's 106 national scholarship recipients, said she grew up in a household where both her parents struggled with drug addiction and her father was in and out of jail until he passed away her freshman year at Volunteer. Her mother's death followed in July 2013, when a prolonged illness (which had already caused her to have a leg amputated) claimed her life.
Since the tragic loss of both her parents, there's been a huge void in Reed's life. However, with the support of her papaw (whom she's lived with much of high school) and her older brother, Reed has managed to keep her grades up, stay involved in extracurricular activities, spend time with friends and work after school at Pal's.
"It's been a struggle," she assured. "I've been taking AP classes and am involved in Upward Bound, a Tusculum College TRIO program. I'm also in Volunteer's marching band and concert band."
At the end of 2013, with encouragement from Volunteer guidance counselor Susan Chambers, Reed applied for the Horatio Alger scholarship with little expectation.
"Forty-two-thousand people applied for the national scholarship," Reed explained, so when I found out I got it in January, "I was in so much shock."
Reed, alongside the 105 other Horatio Alger National Scholarship winners for 2014, attended the National Scholars Conference in Washington, D.C., April 2-5. The annual weekend conference, held in conjunction with the Horatio Alger Awards Induction Ceremonies - 12 new members were inducted into the Association this year - gives students formal recognition for their academic achievement, while allowing them the chance to bond with one another and interact with Horatio Alger members. Members are "elite, business, civic and philanthropic leaders" who come from difficult and/or low-income backgrounds themselves, and sponsor the scholarship program to inspire the next generation of vulnerable youth to persevere and succeed.
It was "like we had known each other for our whole lives," Reed said of meeting the other national scholars.
Reed and her new-found friends from across the country stayed at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington and had breakfast with the Horatio Alger members - many of whom are celebrities - at the Ritz-Carlton.
"We met Tom Selleck and I got my picture with him," she said smiling. "It was just amazing to see that [the members] care so much about somebody that they don't even know."
At the conference, Reed said Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas "actually presented our medals to us."
The national scholars also did a lot of sightseeing during the multi-day event.
"I always wanted to go to Washington, D. C. to see the monuments, especially the Lincoln Memorial," Reed said excitedly. She added with a laugh, "I took a little selfie with [Lincoln]."
The fun-loving 18-year-old feels the Horatio Alger Association truly outdid itself.
"I had the time of my life," she said. "I can't wait to see my new friends at the four-year reunion we've planned."
Reed humbly continued,"if I had the choice, I would actually give my scholarship back - just because of the [weekend] I had in Washington, D.C. Just knowing that there's other people out there with similar backgrounds and I'm not by myself ... There were worse stories than mine and if they can make it through, then I can make it through."
Reed said she will use her $21,000 scholarship to attend Tusculum College and pursue a four-year degree in something like social work "to help kids in my situation." After achieving a bachelor's degree, Reed said she plans to work toward her master's degree, hopefully receiving further scholarship assistance which she can apply for later from the Horatio Alger Association.
No matter the outcome, Noel Reed knows one thing for sure: She will give back.
"I can't wait til I graduate so I can start giving back too."