Brooklyn students are named Horatio Alger Scholars

Two high school students from Brooklyn were among 104 teens from across the country to be named Horatio Alger National Scholars, a designation that earned them a trip to a national conference in Washington D.C. earlier this month, where they were inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

Selena Brazley, a student from Brooklyn at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services in Manhattan, and Michael Onitiri, who attends the High School for Public Service in East Flatbush, spent several days in Washington for the annual National Scholars Conference, which took place in conjunction with the 67th Horatio Alger Awards induction ceremony.

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1947, is dedicated to encouraging young people to pursue their dreams through higher education despite hardships in their lives. This year marked the 30th anniversary of its scholarship program, which has provided more than $100 million in scholarships.

Horatio Alger (1832 – 1899) was a 19th-century American writer who was best known for his novels about impoverished boys who rise from their disadvantaged backgrounds to attain wealth through the grit of their hard work, determination and honesty. His “rags to riches” books were popular during the Gilded Age in America.

“This year’s National Scholars Conference provided a unique opportunity for Horatio Alger Members and the 2014 Horatio Alger National Scholars to come together for a powerful shared experience,” said David Sokol, chairman of Horatio Alger Association. “These connections allowed the students to realize the height of their potential and to witness the success that can be achieved through diligence and focus.”

Coupled with the scholar events, the association inducted the new member class of 2014, a group composed of business, civic, and philanthropic leaders from around the country. The members are responsible for supporting the scholarship program.

“This year, the association honored a group of individuals who are not only successful, but are humble and selfless,” said Tony Novelly, president and CEO of Horatio Alger Association. “Our esteemed group of members is committed to encouraging young men and women who have experienced similar upbringings to pursue a college degree.

The new members of the association include: David M. Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell; Patricia L. Herbold, vice president and secretary, Herbold Foundation and former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Singapore; Jerry Jones Sr., owner, president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys; and David L. Steward, founder and chairman of World Wide Technology, Inc.

As a result of funding more than $100 million in scholarships since the establishment of its scholarship program in 1984, the Horatio Alger Association has afforded more than 21,000 students the opportunity to pursue a college education, according to a statement from the association.

In 2014, the association has awarded more than $9 million in need-based scholarships to 921 at-risk youth. The scholars, who are recognized for their unwavering commitment to continuing their education and serving their communities despite facing hardships, interacted with Horatio Alger Association members at the conference. Many of the members will likely become mentors to the students, association leaders said.

During their stay in Washington, the students visited the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court, Georgetown University, and other sites.