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Scholarships can make the dream of college a reality: Creating scholarships invests in the future

Creating scholarships invests in the future

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette A plaque honors the Hortons partner contributributions to structural improvements to the Horizons Alternative School. The improvements enrich students’ experiences while they work toward earning a high school diploma.

MOHAWK — Some students need more guidance than traditional schools can provide. Some students have experienced situations, such as family problems, serious illness, extreme poverty, and an endless list of other circumstances that make a traditional school challenging, or for a student to concentrate on classes. For some, it is not so much that they have failed in traditional public school system as it is the system has failed the student.

In a broader sense, alternative schools are also those that are categorized as charter schools, religious-based schools, and those that rely on teaching teaching methods and programs that outside the standard education system. Or to put it simply alternative schools focus on students who have struggled with a traditional school setting for whatever reason.

Horizons Alternative School is typical of other alternative schools in that it is designed to educate students who have not been successful in regular schools, or those who had given up and simply dropped out. It is these students Horizons seeks to attract.

Paul and Barb (Herveat) Horton understand the goals Horizons sets for its students and the challenges the students face. With that understanding, they have been involved with Horizons, as well as other Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw schools, to contribute, not to the schools, but to their students, for more than a decade.

Darryl Pierce, retired CLK Superintendent, said it was the Hortons’ passion for education and students that inspired them to create the Lighthouse Learners Program.

“This was for (CLK) students starting in fifth grade,” said Pierce. “She paid full-ride scholarships at Michigan Tech for students who went through a program from Grade 5 until they graduated from high school.”

They are currently at Michigan Tech, he said, adding, “She’s always had a vision for education, and she wants to help youth realize their dreams of getting an education and being successful. That’s her mantra: she wants kids to have a chance to be successful.”

The success of Lighthouse Learners inspired Mrs. Horton to discuss the possibility of a scholarship for a student graduating from Horizons.

“But it’s different than the (Lighthouse Learners Program),” she said. “With (the Horizons) scholarship, the students get their tuition through the government. But our scholarship program offers them things like a vehicle, clothing, food, a place to rent — that’s how the scholarship funds are used.”

These are necessary items not considered in standard grants and scholarships, and for students in lower-income families, simple living expenses often put the dream of college beyond their reach.

“That’s why we thought this scholarship could kind of bridge that,” she said. “Here is a kid who could go to college, but –Hey! He doesn’t have the clothes he needs, he doesn’t have a car to get back and forth; he doesn’t have a place to live.”

Pierce said that while the students easily qualify for government college grants, scholarships and loans, the problem lies more with living expenses. During Graduation, many students have said they were going to go on to higher education. But when graduation is over, students return to their situations, and the vision gets lost.

“These kids can obtain scholarships,” he said, “but what they’re saying is: ‘I can’t get to college; how am I going to drive to Northern? How am I going to live at Northern,’ because they don’t have the means. This scholarship provides that means.”

Horton said that her idea always is: “If we can help one kid go from where they are to where they’re supposed to be, or could be, I call that program successful.”

She said when she and her husband started the Lighthouse Learners, it was a big deal.

“I told Tiger (Pierce) i don’t know where this is going to end, but if we can be successful with one kid, we’re good.”

It surpassed her vision of one student. Currently, she said the Lighthouse Learners program has six kids who are juniors at Michigan Tech.

The Lighthouse Learners program gives children role models, mentors, and after-school and summer activities to motivate them to pursue a higher education. These activities include spiritual and character development, and service projects. Full scholarships to Michigan Tech eliminate the financial hurdle standing between Lighthouse Learners and college.

To ensure the program’s longevity, the Hortons established a Michigan Tech endowment and provided for its base funding through her trust. Wanting to see Lighthouse Learners in action, she and her husband, Paul, an electrical engineering graduate of Michigan Tech, are funding the program annually, and invite others to help support its growth and success.

“There are a lot of children who have the ability to go to college but don’t have the opportunity,” she says. “I want to give these kids the vision that they can do it.”

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