The U.S. Presidential Scholars will be honored for their accomplishments in Washington D.C., from June 15-18.
“Presidential Scholars demonstrate the accomplishments that can be made when students challenge themselves, set the highest standards, and commit themselves to excellence,” Duncan said. “I’m honored to celebrate their creativity, hard work, and community service, and I encourage them – and all students – to continue to showcase the capacity for greatness in our nation's young people.”’
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Obama, selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Of the three million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 3,800 candidates qualified for the 2013 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation.
The 2013 Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
Chen says she almost missed the opportunity to apply for the honor. Her family received the non-descript letter, but thought initially it was junk mail.
“[My mom] pretty much ripped it in half,” Chen explained. “We opened it back up and put the halves together and realized that because I ‘scored such and such on your ACT or SAT, you’re eligible for this US Presidential Scholar award.’”
Chen, who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT during her junior year, got to work. She had to write eight-2,000 word essays.
“I had to talk about people who inspired me, what I thought about certain ideas,” Chen said.
There were 100 students eligible for the honor, but through her writing she was named one of ten finalists to be considered by Colorado’s congressional delegation. Finally, in May she and John Brock of Arapahoe High School in Littleton were named Colorado’s U.S. Presidential Scholars.
Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored more than 6,000 of the nation’s top-performing students with the prestigious award given to honorees during the annual ceremony in D.C. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. Since 1983, each Presidential Scholar has been offered the opportunity to name his or her most influential teacher. Each distinguished teacher is honored with a personal letter from the Secretary of Education.
The teacher chosen for recognition by Chen was Principal Jerry Goings of Highlands Ranch High School.