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La Grande High School junior Julian Harris smiles Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in the school's hallway. He has received a $25,000 Horatio Alger college scholarship.

LA GRANDE — A La Grande High School student whose life story is one of inspiration has received a prestigious scholarship.

Julian Harris, 17, has been awarded a $25,000 Horatio Alger college scholarship by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

Harris, one of more than 10,000 young people to apply for the annual scholarship, is one of only 106 in the United States to receive it.

This scholarship recognizes students who have remained committed to continuing their education and giving back to their communities while overcoming great personal adversities and navigating the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Horatio Alger Association press release.

Harris learned he received the scholarship the morning of Thursday, Feb. 4, when a LHS staff member told him in class.

It was an emotional moment for Harris, who said the mask he wore to protect himself from COVID-19 concealed the degree of excitement he felt. He also said the news made him think of his mother and two older brothers, who died in a car wreck about a decade ago.

“I know they are watching me to see how far I have come,” Harris said.

Harris moved to La Grande from Boise, Idaho, during his reshman year and lives with his younger brother, Weston, and his aunt and uncle.

“I love it here, I love the teachers, they have made me feel so welcome,” Harris said.

Although a junior, Harris is set to graduate this spring after taking many additional classes. He said he found himself with extra time during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the state to close schools and offer only online instruction.

Harris said he decided to put the time to good use and began taking extra classes to graduate early.

Harris said he wants to attend a college in this region after high school so he can remain close to his family. He has not decided what career he wants to pursue, but law is one field he is interested in.

All of the 106 winners of the 2021 Horatio Alger Scholarship are set to later receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet fellow scholars and those who fund the scholarship. The trip will be made only after COVID-19 conditions allow for it.

The Horatio Alger scholarship program is conducted in recognition of Horatio Alger Jr., a prolific writer in the 19th and early 20th centuries whose books inspired its readers to work hard and persevere through adversity.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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