McHenry High School senior earns Horatio Alger national scholarship

McHenry Community High School senior Alexa Munoz is one of 105 high school seniors nationwide to be selected for a $25,000 Horatio Alger National Scholarship program award.

She was also named a QuestBridge Prep Scholar, which is not a direct monetary award but puts her in position to earn several potential benefits to help her college search.

She also plans to apply for the Questbridge's National College Match, which could open the door to a full-ride scholarship to one of 50 select partner schools across the country.

For the Horatio Alger scholarship, in addition to the $25,000 monetary award, the National Scholarship program also provides a trip to Washington D.C. in the spring to participate in the National Scholars Conference.

The program is specifically designed for students who have overcome adversities and plan to attend college and get a bachelor's degree.

Alexa, a first-generation student, is interested in further study in cultures and languages, politics, law, social justice, women's studies and more. She's looking at University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Loyola University as potential postsecondary options.

She said she was thrilled to learn of the award. "I can't even describe it. It was very surreal."

Munoz said there are a lot of first-generation students she knows who are trying to navigate the college and scholarship search process. Being a first-generation student meant she had to rely on only herself to learn in a sometimes complicated educational system, Munoz said.

"It is difficult to navigate through a world where a lot of the times all the odds are against me," she said. "Despite this, I continue to persevere throughout my challenges, learn from them, and grow more resilient."

Her advice for other students is to make connections in school and beyond to learn about scholarship opportunities. She participated in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute program a few summers ago in Washington D.C., and learned about many opportunities through that experience.

She encourages other students to stay positive, seek support from peers, and ask for help.

"Asking for help was the number one thing that has gotten me through all of this," she said.

Curtis Menke, college and career counselor for McHenry Community High School District 156, said he was excited to hear the news about the scholarship.

"I'm just so thrilled for Alexa! This demonstrates how valuable hard work and resourcefulness are," Menke said.

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