- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

GAYVILLE, S.D. (AP) - Genevieve Clark hasn’t let a hard life stop her from pursuing her goals. Now, that determination has paid off.

Clark is one of 106 high school seniors selected out of 5,000 who were nominated for the 2016 Horatio Alger National Scholarship for the amount of $22,000.

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc. is a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encourages youth to pursue their dreams through higher education. The scholarship recognizes students who, in the face of great adversity, have exhibited commitment to continuing their education and serving their communities.

Clark is currently a senior with a 4.2 GPA at Gayville-Volin Public School who plans on attending Mount Marty College this fall to pursue a degree in nursing. Clark is currently taking General Psychology and Intro to Literature classes at the University of South Dakota and took college algebra and physical education courses at MMC last fall.

Clark has had her share of hardships. Her father passed away when she was just 7 years old, and her mother struggled with alcohol addiction. As a result, Clark moved from household to household. She currently lives in Yankton with her cousins.

“It’s never gotten me down like with some people,” she told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan (https://bit.ly/1OEjrFf ). “It destroys the path they choose.”

In school, Clark found the solace and stability she had difficulty finding at home.

“I kept focusing on school,” she said. “I love being there.”

When Clark applied for the Horatio Alger scholarship, she wasn’t expecting the cash amount she received.

“I was told I’d have a chance to get a good chunk of money, but I didn’t think it’d be as much as I got,” Clark said. The organization gives out other scholarships for smaller amounts, with the $22,000 being the largest given out this year.

“The first time I heard I got the scholarship, I told the school counselor and she didn’t believe me,” Clark said. “My cousins looked it up online and found the official documents that said it was true.”

Clark is active in sports, having participated in volleyball and cross country last year and is currently in basketball and track. She is also on the Gayville-Volin student council and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Clark plans on participating in basketball, track and cross country at MMC.

“I was shocked that someone from South Dakota was picked because I noticed most of the other recipients were by the southeast part of the country,” she said. “I bet a lot of those people struggle with things like me or even worse. I don’t know if what I’ve overcome is what they’ve overcome.”

The only downside to Clark’s receiving the scholarship is that she will be required to miss a few days of school to attend the Horatio Alger National Scholars Conference in Washington, D.C., March 30 to April 2.

Clark will meet the other scholarship recipients and receive a tour of the nation’s capitol.

“I am pretty honored, but I don’t know what to expect,” Clark said. “The rules say that you have to behave well or you could lose your scholarship.”

That shouldn’t be a problem for Clark, who has maintained model-student status throughout her school career.

Gayville-Volin science teacher and track coach Jeremiah Dibley is one of many who have witnessed Clark’s dedication to her athletic and scholarly studies.

“She’s exactly what the scholarship is about - overcoming difficult obstacles and not only doing OK, but excelling. She’s done that in everything,” he said.

“If you look at her in the classroom and the field, you’re going to see a hard worker,” he added. “Getting financial help with college is always a wonderful reward for hard work. It literally pays off.”

Clark feels very fortunate for the financial help she’s receiving in addition to the Horatio Alger scholarship.

“Mount Marty made it affordable for me, so that scholarship is paying for the rest of my education,” Clark said. “It makes me feel good that I can do that, but it also makes me feel bad because there’s other people that can’t have that. But I could graduate college with no student loans, so I’m blessed to have that chance.”

Clark is looking forward to starting the next chapter of her life, even though closing this chapter won’t be easy.

“Throughout my life, this whole school has been like my family,” she said. “When nothing was going right at home, I could always rely on them to pick me up.”

Clark’s future looks bright and promising with new experiences just around the corner.

“She’s already talking about buying a car and she hasn’t even finished school yet,” Dibley said. “It’s a nice reward for someone who works as hard as she does.”

___

Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, https://www.yankton.net/

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