Maple Lake senior receives Horatio Alger Award


Tom Selleck, 2000 Horatio Alger Award Winner and Heather Blahut, National Horatio Alger Scholar. Both Selleck and Blahut say their Horatio Alger Award is a great honor and with hard work and perseverance, you can achieve your dreams. (Photo submitted)

 

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans hosted its 68th Horatio Alger Awards in Washington, D.C. on April 9th to the 11th. Students who receive the Horatio Alger scholarship are recognized for their commitment to continue their education and serve their communities despite facing great adversity. The weekend’s events included a formal induction ceremony and  focused on the association's 12 new Members as well as the 106 National Scholars selected from across the United States. One of those 106 scholars honored was Heather Blahut, a MLHS senior who was recently named one of Maple Lake’s Ambassadors. 
 
When Blahut was asked to attend an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Horatio Alger Scholars Conference, she didn’t know what to expect. Parents were asked to stay at home and not accompany their child so that the scholar could totally focus on the conference. After boarding a plane alone the Wednesday before the conference, Blahut arrived in D.C. and was instantly welcomed and put at ease.  Even before arriving at the Fairmont Hotel where they stayed, Blahut started meeting other scholars and making new friendsThe Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans hosted its 68th Horatio Alger Awards in Washington, D.C. on April 9th to the 11th.
 
Students who receive the Horatio Alger scholarship are recognized for their commitment to continue their education and serve their communities despite facing great adversity.
 
The weekend’s events included a formal induction ceremony and  focused on the association's 12 new Members as well as the 106 National Scholars selected from across the United States. One of those 106 scholars honored was Heather Blahut, a MLHS senior who was recently named one of Maple Lake’s Ambassadors. 
 
When Blahut was asked to attend an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Horatio Alger Scholars Conference, she didn’t know what to expect. Parents were asked to stay at home and not accompany their child so that the scholar could totally focus on the conference. After boarding a plane alone the Wednesday before the conference, Blahut arrived in D.C. and was instantly welcomed and put at ease.  Even before arriving at the Fairmont Hotel where they stayed, Blahut started meeting other scholars and making new friends. At the first meeting of the conference speakers talked about how much of a life-changing experience this whole thing would be and according to Blahut she still didn’t really believe that she was one of the honorees. She thought to herself, “that’s what they all say”. As the day progressed, she started believing that this wasn’t just a nice little vacation to visit the sites of the nation’s capital, this was the real deal. 
 
Day two started off with meeting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  According to Blahut, Thomas talked to the group for what seemed like minutes, but in reality he kept the students enthralled for over two hours. Blahut said that Thomas was so inspiring and she was honored to speak to him after his lecture and ran into him quite a bit throughout her trip. Other inspirational people Blahut met were Robert Brown, a civil rights leader who was Martin Luther King, Jr’s best friend and Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter who was the first female Chair of the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross.
 
Meal time during the trip meant dining with extremely successful individuals, including former  National Horatio Members award winners. One of those members she was David Novak, the Chairman and CEO of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. Another was Tom Sellick, a 2000 Horatio Alger Award Winner. According to Selleck, he was certainly not an overnight success. It has been 11 years from the time Fox had dropped his contract until the pilot for Magnum was sold. He told Blahut, "My road to success was complicated. It was not a straight shot. There were many failures along the way, but I believe one of the privileges we have in this country is the right to fail. In the entertainment business, failure is heightened. I've taken some huge risks with my career, which doesn't mean I've always been right, but it does mean I've never second guessed myself."
 
Selleck said he was used to handling failure, but success was another story. "Magnum changed my life for the better and worse," he said. "There are huge consequences to being a public person." Rather than run from his fame, however, Selleck says he has tried to put the access it has given him to good use. He served, with Barbara Jordan, as co-national spokesperson for the Character Counts Coalition, which works to improve the ethical quality of society. He has also served as the spokesman for the Los Angeles Missions for the Homeless, as well as the National Fatherhood Initiative. Selleck says his Horatio Alger Award is one of his greatest honors. "I have a typical American success story," he said. "My life has had its challenges. Certainly, nothing was handed to me. But with hard work and perseverance, I was able to achieve my dream. I was lucky to have parents who may not have been able to help me financially, but from whom I drew great strength. They set a good example for me to follow. I've lived in nearly all strata of financial situations, but through all those stages I've kept the same core values they instilled in me.” 
 
Some of her treasured trip memories included attending one of the only events in the Supreme Court and having dinner in the State Department where she met actor John Paul. 
 
She said that her favorite part of the trip was meeting the hundreds of other recipients and making connections that will stay with her forever. “This experience was definitely life changing and one that I will never forget”, said Blahut. “We are 106 out 40,000 students that applied in the United States that received the National Horatio Alger Scholarship. My mother is definitely proud of me.” 
 
One of the points Justice Clarence Thomas made that really stuck with Blahut is that you are not a victim, you are a hero. Heather Blahut, Maple Lake’s first ever Horatio Alger scholar, said, “most of the time people want to victimize others with adversities, but what I’ve learned is that we are at an advantage. This experience has motivated me to want to become someone successful so that I can return the favor that was once.
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