LOWELL -- Lowell High School Senior Michael O'Keefe is looking at a bright future thanks to scholarship award he received from the Horatio Alger Association.
He recently learned the association has awarded him an annual amount of $25,000 toward his college education.
The description of the award criteria seems to fit O'Keefe perfectly.
"This annual scholarship recognizes outstanding students, who, in the face of great adversity, have exhibited an admirable commitment to continuing their education and serving their communities."
O'Keefe, who has lived in Dracut since his mother died when he was 12, has a 4.0 grade-point average at Lowell High School. He is originally from Lowell and is able to attend LHS through a lottery program for out-of-district students, he said.
At the time his mother died, O'Keefe was in his second round of treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive and rare form of cancer that afflicts childrens' connective tissue. The disease is quite treatable and O'Keefe is now cancer-free.
His grandmother, Barbara Healy-Pare "has always been number one in my life," he says.
His father has been an inconsistent presence in his life, although he gave O'Keefe a typewriter. That gift produced a desire to be a writer.
LHS has been "life changing" for him. His favorite classes are a race and ethnicity class and English literature.
O'Keefe appreciated the way teacher Kendra Bauer approached the race and ethnicity class because she made it relevant to the students' lives.
He also credits LHS staff member Karen Cassidy, who helps students "with college stuff." She has helped him research colleges and scholarships.
O'Keefe has already been accepted at UMass Boston, but has other applications he is waiting to hear about. If chooses to go to college in Boston, he says it would give him an opportunity to see the city in a different way from the 12-year-old boy going in for cancer treatments saw it.
With the Horatio Alger scholarship, "I now know my life won't be like my parents. They had tough lives. But knowing I've finances for college covered makes me feel optimistic."
Alger was a 19th and early 20th century author of many children's books with themes that seem to define the American dream, scholars say. His books recount how a "can-do spirit" and individual initiative can allow anyone to achieve their dreams, regardless of circumstances.
The Horatio Alger Association strives to promote the values exemplified in these books and to honor those who have achieved success by adhering to them. Since its founding in 1984, it has awarded more than $159 million in scholarships to more than 25,000 deserving students.