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Las Vegas Academy student gets $25K national scholarship

A Las Vegas teenager is among 105 students nationwide to receive a prestigious $25,000 college scholarship.

Sierra Duran, a 17-year-old high school senior at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, has been named a 2023 Horatio Alger scholar.

Duran, who lives in North Las Vegas, said her father died when she was 1 and she has grown up in a single-parent household.

“I wanted to pay my own way through college and not put that on my mom,” she said. “Getting any kind of scholarship helps.”

Duran learned of the scholarship from the nonprofit Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans via school counselors. She noticed it was based not just on financial need, but also academics.

Nationwide, scholarship recipients for 2023 maintain an average 3.95 GPA and have an average household income of $23,995 a year, according to an announcement this month.

Duran found out via email in May on one of her final exam days that she had received the scholarship. She was at Red Robin with friends at the time.

“I ended up crying over it — happy tears,” she said.

The Horatio Alger Association launched its scholarship program in 1984. Since then, it has awarded $253 million to more than 35,000 students.

In a change from previous years, the association selected scholarship recipients as high school juniors instead of seniors.

“As college enrollment continues to decline, we are more committed than ever to determining the factors preventing students from pursuing their educational dreams,” said James Dicke II, chairman of the Horatio Alger Association, in the announcement.

Scholarship recipients will have access to tools, such as financial aid and college selection counseling, online college success seminars, 24/7 mental health support and emergency funding to help meet basic needs during their senior year of high school and throughout college.

Duran has a 4.7 weighted GPA, a distinction she earned by getting excellent grades in advanced classes. She’s also a vocal major in her school’s choir department.

She’s vice president of her school’s National Honor Society chapter, a member of the Student Organization of Latinx and a member of Spanish Honor Society. And she volunteers at animal shelters and by handing out food to people who are homeless.

Duran wants to become a veterinarian and is interested in music therapy for animals. Her top choice college is University of California, Davis, and she’s also interested in options such as Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and Penn State.

The Horatio Alger scholarship money will go a long way toward paying for college, Duran said.

“I work for everything I have, so this scholarship just means a lot,” she said.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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