OGDEN — Ogden High School has produced a winner of the prestigious Horatio Alger National Scholarship for the second year in a row.
Senior Philip Jimenez was selected by the Horatio Alger Association as one of 106 students across the country in 2020 to be awarded a $25,000 scholarship to put toward college. He was selected from 40,000 applicants, according to the association.
The scholarship “recognizes outstanding students, who, in the face of great adversity, have exhibited a commitment to continuing their education and serving the greater good,” said a press release by the association, which announced scholarship winners Tuesday.
“We’re excited for students that can work hard and see a reward, a benefit in the end,” said Debra Francis, college and career center coordinator at Ogden High. “He’s just on track to do great things. We’ll be watching him.”
Jimenez has excelled academically in high school. He is Ogden High’s Sterling Scholar in Science, and he has passed six Advanced Placement tests granting him college credit, with plans to take five more AP tests and one International Baccalaureate test toward the end of this school year.
He loves biology and chemistry, and he has plans to pursue a science-related education and career, potentially in medicine.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Jimenez has run cross country all four years of high school, earning the Academic All State Award for excelling in the classroom while also excelling at the sport.
Though Jimenez excels now, especially in science, he wasn’t always focused on school because he had other things on his mind.
The biggest obstacle Jimenez overcame was not having a stable home when he was young, he said.
His family and living situation “made it hard to want to learn,” he said.
“At first, I’d go to school, and I was just naturally talented in certain aspects, so I could go and not really try,” Jimenez said, “because I felt that (school) wasn’t as important as ... going home and figuring out what we were going to have for dinner.”
His family moved around a lot when he was young, so he didn’t have a home base, he said. He and his younger siblings bounced from one family member to another — sometimes living with his mom, sometimes his dad and other times his grandmother. His parents were in and out of prison. There were times when the family was homeless, he said.
His dad was also verbally and physically abusive, Jimenez said. During this unstable time, they lived in New Mexico.
When he was about 10, his mom moved with him and his three younger siblings to Utah, where some of his mom’s family lives.
After first arriving in Utah, the family continued to move around the Layton and Ogden areas, and spent some time living with an aunt. But for the past five years or so, the family has been stable, Jimenez said.
This is thanks to his mom, Lindsay Jimenez, he said.
“I’m like really proud of her, considering all the stuff she had to overcome,” Jimenez said. “She cared so much about us that she really cleaned everything up, and she’s one of the hardest working people I know.”
In addition to his mom’s turn-around and his own hard work, Jimenez credits the support of his teachers.
Three of his ninth-grade teachers at Mount Ogden Junior High — who taught language arts, Spanish and science — helped him see that “learning was kind of fun,” he said. He felt comfortable asking them questions about school, or talking to them about other things in life, he said.
Two teachers at Ogden High, his chemistry teacher, Gillian Hanson, and his AP U.S. history teacher, Michelle Braeden, also were sources of significant support.
Hanson pushed him to solve problems, pointing out the information he had at hand rather than giving him the answer, he said, a skill he thinks will help him be successful in college.
Braeden’s teaching about the civil rights movement made Jimenez believe that he could overcome his life difficulties, since those who participated in the movement had overcome difficulties he saw as much more severe than his own.
A college access adviser with the Weber State TRiO program, located at Ogden High, Jesus Garcia, helped Jimenez revise his essays and complete the intensive scholarship application.
Jimenez thinks this scholarship will change the way his college experience unfolds.
“(College) would have definitely been a lot harder” without this scholarship money, Jimenez said.
His desire to go out of state for college will be much more feasible financially because of this award and other potential awards he’s applying for. His top choice school, University of Oregon, estimates that it costs more than $53,000 per year to attend for an out-of-state student, including tuition and living expenses.
Jimenez is one of many in the area for whom the money likely made a difference. Since 1984, 73 students in Weber and Davis counties have been selected for the award, according to the Horatio Alger Association.