December 11, 2018

Carly Buggy
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Award Winning Multi-Platinum Recording Artist, Actress, Author and Advocate Jewel Kilcher to Receive 2019 Horatio Alger Award 

Horatio Alger Association names 13 outstanding individuals, each of whom has overcome adversity to achieve professional and personal success, to its New Member Class of 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 11, 2018) – Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education, today announced that Jewel Kilcher (Jewel), award winning singer-songwriter, actress and New York Times best-selling author, has been selected for membership in this prestigious organization. Jewel joins 12 other exceptional business, civic and cultural leaders from across North America in receiving 2019 honors. For more than 70 years, the Horatio Alger Award has been annually bestowed upon esteemed individuals who have succeeded despite facing adversities, and who have remained committed to higher education and charitable endeavors throughout their lives.

Raised in small-town Alaska in an unstable home, Jewel began performing at age 5 with her parents in hotels. Her mother and father divorced when Jewel was 8 years old, and Jewel began singing in bars at age eight with her father. The stress of being a single parent was overwhelming for her father, who suffered from PTSD from his service in Vietnam, as well as his own abusive childhood. He turned to drinking and physical abuse as coping mechanisms. Jewel continued to tour locally with her father until age 15 when she left home to escape the volatile home environment. To support herself, she either hitch hiked or rode 12 miles into town each day on her horse to her part-time job until she was accepted to a fine arts school in Michigan on a partial scholarship. With the support of her town, Jewel raised $11,000 to cover the remainder of her tuition. Following graduation, she moved to San Diego, where she lived in her car after turning down the sexual advances of a boss who withheld her pay check as retaliation. Jewel’s car was stolen, and then she was homeless for some time. Unable to hold down jobs due to health problems and panic attacks, she began writing music and performing in a local coffee shop where she was ultimately discovered. Before long, Jewel signed with Atlantic Records.

Her 1995 debut album, Pieces of You, went on to become one of the best-selling debut albums of all time, going 12-times platinum and earning her an American Music Award for Favorite New Artist. She became known for her authenticity, combining poetry and melody to tell stories through song. She graced the cover of Time magazine and was credited for creating a musical tide shift – the headline read, “Macho is out, empathy is in.” Jewel’s versatile music career has spanned seven studio albums ranging in genre from pop to folk to country – she has had 23 hit singles, four Grammy Award nominations and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. She has appeared on the cover of multiple other magazines such as Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, performed on “Saturday Night Live,” at Super Bowl XXXII, the NBA Finals, for Pope John Paul II and for President Bill Clinton. In addition to singing and songwriting, Jewel is also a successful Emmy-nominated actress and New York Times best-selling author. 

“Jewel has a true Horatio Alger story,” said Matthew Rose, president, Horatio Alger Association and 2013 Horatio Alger Award recipient. “Betting on herself from the beginning, she has achieved tremendous success by remaining authentic and never shying away from poetically describing the real world around her. Like many of our Scholars, Jewel has experienced pain in her life, but has not been broken by it. She will undoubtedly be an excellent role model for our Scholars and we are proud to welcome her as a 2019 Horatio Alger Member.”

Jewel is also well-known for her philanthropic efforts, having developed three charities of her own –Higher Ground for Humanity, Project Clean Water and Never Broken Foundation. In partnership with her mother and brother, Higher Ground for Humanity has donated more than $10 million to programs, institutions and communities across 30 countries focusing on health, environment, arts and youth issues. Project Clean Water provides clean water on a global scale, improving the quality of life for millions of people. Jewel’s most recent project, Never Broken Foundation, provides proven mindfulness and emotional intelligence tools she developed to solve for anxiety and help people create “a habit out of happiness,” offering it to the public for free. She has been a champion for breast cancer research, delivering more than 12 million petition signatures to Capitol Hill, urging Congress to pass the bipartisan Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2005. 

“This Award holds a special place in my heart,” said Jewel. “To be recognized for overcoming adversity – experiences I have given voice to through song and written story – is truly humbling. Early in life and my career, I learned to be my own champion because no one else was going to be. I understand that is the same story for many Horatio Alger Scholars, but I want them to know that they are no longer alone. I promise to be the support these students need as they navigate life’s challenges and come to know the power of their own resilience.”

Through its Members, Horatio Alger Association aims to educate young people about the limitless opportunities afforded to them by the free-enterprise system. To further this mission, the organization awards scholarships to outstanding high school students who are committed to pursuing higher education and giving back to their communities. Like Association Members, Horatio Alger Scholars have faced significant adversities, but have also displayed unmatched resilience in overcoming their challenges. Since the scholarship program was established in 1984, Horatio Alger Association has provided more than $159 million to students in need, all of which has been funded solely through the generosity of Association Members and friends.

“Ms. Kilcher has been a supporter and friend of the Horatio Alger Association for some time now and we are excited to have her officially join as a Member,” said Terrence J. Giroux, executive director, Horatio Alger Association. “She has a true gift – commanding the room with her voice, taking listeners on a journey, which resonates with many of our Members and Scholars. Her sincerity is impactful, and I know our Scholars will benefit from her experience and support.”

Jewel and the Member Class of 2019 will be formally inducted into the Association on April 46, 2019, during the Association’s 72nd Horatio Alger Award Induction Ceremonies in Washington, D.C. The annual three-day event honors the achievements of both Members and National Scholars, affording both groups the opportunity to meet and interact as well as exchange stories of hardships and triumphs.

For more information about Horatio Alger Association and its Member Class of 2019, please visit and/or follow the organization on FacebookTwitter and Instagram using the hashtag #HoratioAlgerAward.


About Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans:

Founded in 1947, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc. is dedicated to the simple but powerful belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles. The Association honors the achievements of outstanding leaders who have accomplished remarkable successes in spite of adversity by bestowing upon them the Horatio Alger Award and inducting them as lifetime Members. Horatio Alger Members support promising young people with the resources and confidence needed to overcome adversity in pursuit of their dreams through higher education. Through the generosity of its Members and friends, in 2018, the Association awarded more than $16 million in undergraduate and graduate need-based scholarships across the United States and Canada, and also provided college support and mentoring services to its Scholars. Since 1984, the Association has awarded more than $159 million in college scholarships to more than 25,000 deserving young people. For more information, please visit