Sometimes dreams really do come true. Fortunately, one of Wayne County High School
students got to experience that feeling in a big way this past school year.
Wayne County High School 2019 graduate Sierra Hagerman has the honor of being one
of the first Wayne County students to receive the prestigious Horatio Alger National Scholarship.
She will be using the $25,000 scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished
Americans, Inc., a non-profit educational organization, to attend Murray State University this fall.
Hagerman was recognized both during Senior Awards Night and at the April Board of
Education monthly meeting for this noteworthy accomplishment, which began a year ago when
she first applied for the scholarship that high school educators brought to her attention. It was
quite a long shot, but months later she was surprised and thrilled to receive the news that she
had been selected for the national award amongst 40,000 applicants across the country.
That led to an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. to be named a Horatio Alger
Association Scholar on stage and in the spotlight with 105 other American students plus ten
more students from Canada. She spent her spring vacation on a trip of a lifetime experiencing
everything from her first airline travel trip to enjoying gourmet meals to chatting with a Supreme
Court Justice and CEO’s of companies to staying at the five-star Fairmont Hotel. Sierra took in
every moment savoring the new experiences, having grown up in humble surroundings where
she was not exposed to an affluent lifestyle.
“I grew up with very unfortunate circumstances in my life. As a child, I didn’t have very
much. I coped with my home life through my schooling. All of my time and my effort went into
school, assuring I always had the best grade I could muster and never falling under a B. I
realized the older I got that college was a mere fantasy. In reality, a kid in a poverty-stricken
home will only go so far with school. I feared for my future before one fateful day when I got
called into the office,” recalled Hagerman.
Wayne County High School GEAR-Up Specialist Dean Sumpter and Wayne County
High School Counselor Elizabeth Miller showed her a scholarship that they thought was a good
“I was certainly not expecting to get it, but I filled out the application that Mr. Sumpter
assisted me with and in December of 2018 I learned I was a recipient of the 2019 Horatio
National Scholarship, quite the Christmas present. A $25,000 opportunity dropped at my feet. I
was flabbergasted,” said Hagerman.
“With this scholarship came a completely paid for trip to Washington D.C. But that also
came with the horrifying truth that I would have to go alone, on an airplane, for my first airplane
ride ever. It was truly a growing journey,” she explained.
Hagerman said, “Going to D.C. was like no other. Though our days were planned out to fit
the maximum amount of activities in it, I still enjoyed every second. I met with extraordinary
people that overcame so much in their life and succeeded. And I met with kids, just like me.
Growing up in different adversities and going down their own paths, but all alike. I made friends I
could never forget and I had a family in this organization. While in D.C., I was told many times,
Once you’re a part of the Horatio Alger Association, you make a family. This doesn’t stop after a
college; this association is a forever thing.”
Hagerman noted, “My favorite part of the whole experience was the last major event we had.
The association had a ceremony, inducting new members and congratulating the scholars.
There was wonderful food, entertainment, and each member gave a heartwarming speech. I
even got to see a bald eagle fly past me!"
Not only were the students the star of the show, but a very distinguished group of
successful adults were highlighted. The annual event raised more than $13.4 million, which
funds the organization’s growing college scholarship programs. The Association inducted its
New Member Class of 2019, comprised of 13 accomplished corporate, civic and cultural leaders
from across the United States and Canada, all of who have demonstrated honesty,
determination and a strong work ethic in their pursuit of personal and professional success.
Hagerman followed a packed schedule of events including: a ceremony at the Supreme
Court and a formal induction and show hosted by Horatio Alger Members Byron Pitts and Rob
Lowe, as well as CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell. Featured performers included eight-time
Grammy Award winner Gladys Knight; singer-songwriter Peter Hollens; actor Garrett Clayton,
Broadway performer Betsy Wolfe; and newly inducted Member and Award-winning recording
artist Jewel Kilcher.
Hagerman said, “My favorite part of the whole experience was this last major event. The
association hosted such a remarkable ceremony, inducting new members and congratulating
the scholars. There was wonderful food, entertainment, and each member gave a heartwarming
speech. I even got to see a bald eagle fly past me!”
“It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.”
The New Member Class of 2019 were also happy to be in the midst of such deserving
young people. They represented the organization’s core values – perseverance, integrity and a
commitment to excellence – and were honored with lifetime membership into the Association.
Sierra brushed shoulders with over a dozen new members including Author and Speaker John
C. Maxwell, Retired Chairman of Johnson and Johnson William Weldon, KIND Healthy Snacks
Founder Daniel Lubetzky, and UPS CEO David P Abney. Sierra had the opportunity to get
advice from First Bank Executive Chairman James W. Ayers, who was amongst the New
Member Class of 2019.
Her enthusiastic and informative presentation describing her experience was
appreciated by the board members and staff attending the monthly board of education meeting.
It was very rewarding to learn about the the three-day event at the 72nd awards conference from
her perspective. She participated in all kinds of classes and learning experiences ranging from
subjects on etiquette, money smarts, and financial aid. This national scholarship seeks students
who have exhibited determination, integrity, and perseverance in overcoming adversity, as well
as having critical financial need.
Horatio Alger, Jr. was an author in the 19th and early 20th centuries whose books inspired
readers to work hard and persevere through adversity. Alger’s books recount how a “can-do
spirit” and individual initiative can allow anyone to achieve their dreams, regardless of
Hagerman mirrors this philosophy and is a perfect fit for this honor. She graduated with a 4.0
grade point average and plans to major in accounting She also earned a regional third place
award through her involvement with the Technology Student Association Club at Wayne County
High School earlier this school year. In addition, as a sophomore, she was nominated to the
Horizon’s Fellow program at Berea College. She has been a lead contributor on the school
district website student team of webmasters, as well. She was recognized at senior honors night
for her scholarship and work on the school district website.
“She is a hard worker, detail-oriented with her schoolwork, and has many fans amongst
the educators on the Wayne County School campus. Her advanced technology skills have been
a great asset in facilitating content on the school district website this past year,” said Wayne
County Schools Public Relations Coordinator Linda Jones.
“We are all so excited about her future education since she is such a talented young
lady,” added Jones. ”She is always pushing herself to reach outside her comfort zone and
experience new opportunities. She has exhibited a lot of courage this past year and we are very
proud of her.”
Hagerman is thankful to the school staffers who have supported her through this process
and several of those who have helped her along the way like Wayne County Area Technology
Center Finance Instructor Dana Hurd, GEAR-UP Specialist Dean Sumpter, and School
Counselor Elizabeth Miller. She is the daughter of Amanda Cordova and Bill Hagerman, as well
as adoptive daughter of Poison and Corey Allen.
Sierra Hagerman presented a PowerPoint she made about the trip to the board members
(L-R) GEAR-Up tutor Dean Sumpter, Sierra Hagerman, and ATC Business Teacher Dana Hurd
(L-R) Sierra Hagerman received a certificate recognizing her achievement from Chairperson Donna Blevins
116 National Scholars from across the country as well as Canada
Sierra Hagerman at a dinner table where she dinned with fellow scholars
Sierra Hagerman standing in front of the welcoming poster for the scholars at the Fairmont Hotel