WINSLOW — When Sydney Crogan was in the sixth grade, she met adversity face to face and vowed not to let it direct the course of her life.

Her father was dying of lung cancer and, she acknowledges, it was difficult to watch him suffer.

“Before he passed away, he and I had a conversation about success and how we defined it,” says Crogan, now 17. “And we defined it as being healthy and happy. After he passed away, that gave me an extreme drive to be involved — and be happy and healthy.”

A Winslow High School senior, Crogan is living the life she resolved to lead, studying hard, taking part in extracurricular activities, volunteering in the community and remembering, always, to enjoy life.

“I try to stay positive,” she says.

The courage Crogan demonstrated in overcoming personal obstacles to attain academic success, and her exceptional standing as a student, are what netted her a $20,000 college scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc.

Horatio Alger Jr. was an author who wrote many rags-to-riches novels in the 1800s about poor boys who, through hard work, courage and determination, managed to rise above poverty.

Crogan is one of 104 recipients from around the U.S. to receive the annual Alger award, for which she applied last fall by writing a series of essays that included the story about her talk with her late father.

“I was ecstatic,” Crogan of being notified that she had won. “I called my mom. She’s a teacher at Vassalboro Community School. She was so proud.”

Crogan hopes to enroll at University of Vermont in the fall and major in public communications, but it depends on the financial aid package she receives for that school, she said. She also has been accepted at University of Maine, University of Southern Maine, St. Joseph’s College and University of New Hampshire — and she’s awaiting word from other schools as well.

She has not settled on a career choice, but is confident that college will help her decide.

Those who know Crogan say she is sure to excel in whatever she does.

“She is, if you will, the real deal,” said Tom McNeil, her high school guidance counselor. “She’s my 35-year-old senior in terms of responsibility, foresight, soundness of judgment, leadership and genuine, positive regard for others. She’s got all that.”

Crogan is president of the student senate, co-president of the National Honor Society and a field hockey player, and has been a member of both the math team and Renaissance club at her school. She also is a black belt in karate and teaches children field hockey every Sunday for two hours.

“I know that community service was a big part of the scholarship, and through the National Honor Society we volunteer at the Universalist Unitarian Church evening sandwich program,” Crogan said. “This summer I did some volunteer work with the Down syndrome awareness program.”

She also is an avid runner and hikes with her brother, Keith, who is 19, and their mother, Tracey.

“We hike all over Maine,” she said. “It’s something we really commit to. One of our favorites is Cadillac Mountain.”

Crogan said she is very close to her mother, who is always there to boost her confidence or help bring her down to earth, when circumstances warrant.

“She’s my support line, in everything I do,” she said.

Tracey Crogan said her daughter is a delight, both to her and to the everyone she encounters.

“I’m very proud of her and she genuinely is a hard working young lady with a fantastic work ethic,” she said.

She said she will miss her when she graduates in June and goes off to college in the fall.

“She’s delightful, always. She’s my treat.”

As part of her award, Sydney Crogan is to be honored with other recipients in April at the Horatio Alger Awards Ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

“The association is proud to help these talented individuals find continued success through their pursuit of higher education,” said Tony Novelly, president and chief executive officer of the association, in a written statement. “We know they will continue to represent the Horatio Alger ideals of achievement through perseverance and integrity in facing life’s challenges.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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