Sierra Goodridge was preparing to apply for a scholarship at the advice of an advisor from an Upward Bound program held at Bowdoin College when she learned about another opportunity that fit her perfectly.

The Horatio Alger National Scholarship program criteria included being the first generation in the family to attend college being from a low-income family, and having overcome hardship.

Goodrich said she thought, “If a scholarship fits me, this is it.”

On Jan. 2, Goodridge, a senior at Gardiner Area High School, learned it was the right choice.

She was one of 106 students selected to receive a $25,000 scholarship, and the only 2017 winner from Maine.

A look at the lengthy list of her accomplishments and memberships makes it easy to see why. It starts with her participation in the concert and jazz bands, track, the Civil Rights Team, the Latin Club, the yearbook and being a student body representative on the school district’s Wellness Committee, and goes through placing first in the Dirigo Girls State Americanism Essay Contest, in which she took the instrumental talent award as well.

Steve Ouellette, athletic director and the high school’s assistant principal, said, “Sierra is just an outstanding young lady. She’s hardworking in everything she does, is very involved in her school and community and does a terrific job working with all ages.”

He offered one example of her accomplishments.

“This past winter she became a cheerleader, and two teammates were not doing well academically,” Ouellette said. “She volunteered as much time as they needed to get them back on track, and she did a tremendous job.”

It’s Goodridge’s first try at cheerleading.

“Indoor track got cut, and I wanted to continue being involved with sports at the school,” she said.

Goodridge, 18, is normally a distance runner and is a captain of the cross-country and outdoor track teams.

She plans to major in biology and has applied to nine colleges.

In the essay she submitted with her application, she describes her approach to overcoming hardship.

“The hardships that I have endured during my life have shaped me into a passionate and driven person. When dealing with hardships I find ways to transform each event into a positive learning experience. When my father committed suicide (five years ago), I took the chance to learn about mental illness and how to support others in times of crisis. Now, whenever I see another in distress, I go out of my way to offer support, guidance and care to them.”

Her mother, Sara Goodridge, said, “I’m very proud of her. She goes out of her way to help others. She recognizes if somebody is having a hard day and she’s always trying to cheer somebody up.”

The Horatio Alger Scholarship money gives her flexibility.

“If I do get accepted to one of my top choice schools, I will be able to at least think about going there,” Goodridge said.

In the meantime, she is applying for other scholarships as well.

She laughs when asked what she does in her free time.

“I’m really always at school,” she said. “I don’t need free time; I’m always having fun at school.”

According to a news release from the Horatio Alger Association program, it “recognizes outstanding students, who, in the face of great adversity, have exhibited an admirable commitment to continuing their education and serving their communities.”

Since 1984, the program has awarded more than $125 million to more than 25,000 students. According to the same news release, the 2017 scholars come from households with an average income of $12,775 per year.

In addition to the scholarship, Goodridge and the other national scholars will travel to Washington, D.C., from March 30 to April 1 for the Horatio Alger National Scholars Conference.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams