Seward High School’s Tegan Retzer is one of 107 students to be selected for the 2021 Horatio Alger National Scholarship in the amount of $25,000. Retzer was chosen from tens of thousands of applicants, all of whom have given back to their communities while overcoming personal adversity and, unique to this year, navigating the challenges of COVID-19. For Retzer, the COVID pandemic has affected multiple family members in different ways.
“My mother and I live with my grandmother, who has recently been diagnosed with multiple heart-related conditions,” Retzer said. “We’ve had to be really cautious about that, in making sure that we take all the right precautions during this pandemic, and there’s always that type of worry that we might bring it home to her. Also, during the beginning of the pandemic, my mother lost her job, which of course had its financial impact on us as well.”
Giving back to her community while overcoming personal adversity are two requirements of the scholarship which for Retzer are intertwined. In her application, she outlined her community work and details about the obstacles she has faced.
“I have been volunteering my time at the Seward He Will Provide Food Bank since I was about 12 years old, and that’s my main volunteer focus, and I usually volunteer about two hours a week there, and I’ve really connected with a lot of the volunteers,” Retzer said. “When I was growing up, my mother and I frequently visited the food bank as patrons, and so when I got old enough, I wanted to give back to them for everything that they’ve provided us.”
In addition to her work at the food bank, Retzer is president of Seward High School’s Student Council, serves on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s School Board, and is president and co-founder of Seward High’s environmental club, which is directly linked to the other focus of her community involvement.
“I’m also part of Sustainable Seward, which is a grassroots organization that focuses on implementing sustainable options in Seward,” she said. “Environmental issues, specifically like climate activism, is also something that’s important to me.”
A further requirement of the Horatio Alger scholarship is an average GPA of 3.88 or greater. To supplement her impeccable academic standing, Retzer has also taken on classes which will count toward college credit.
“I’ve taken quite a few writing courses through Kenai Peninsula College and the dual enrollment program that they have with Seward,” she said. “You have the chance to get high school credit and college credit, so I plan to transfer some of those credits over to my University when I graduate.”
In the fall Retzer plans to attend Boston University to pursue a degree in Economics and International Relations while participating in the university’s pre-law advisory program. As to her plans thereafter, the sky is the proverbial limit.
“I want to pursue a career in government or law, and one day I hope to run for office in Alaska,” she said. “I’m not sure about the specifics, but that’s the goal right now and it has been for the past couple of years.”
In addition to her scholarship, Retzer and her 106 fellow scholars will receive trips to Washington, DC to attend the Horatio Alger National Scholars Conference, where they will participate in college preparedness sessions and meet such Horatio Alger luminaries as Rob Lowe, Reba McEntire and Jewel Kilcher. The scholarship program is funded entirely through private donations from Association members and friends.