Harris, Leonard and Stonebarger selected for 2014 Presidential Scholar Program
Story and photos by Greg Mitchell,FLEACT Yokosuka, Public Affairs
Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka’s Nile C. Kinnick High School has three Red Devils that were recently selected as a part of the 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, one of the most prestigious awards given to high school students.
Amongst more than 3,000 candidates selected from the nearly 3.4 million students expected to graduate from high schools in the United States in 2014, senior classmen Helena J. Harris, Mao Leonard and Parker R. Stonebarger made the cut in the Americans abroad category out of fifty two candidates nominated.
Established in 1964 by executive order of then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, the United States Presidential Scholars program has recognized more than 6,000 students to date. In 1979, the program was extended to also recognize exceptional talent in visual, creative or performing arts.To be selected as a candidate for this award comes as an honor for all three students.
“I became involved with this based off of my SAT scores and my teachers recommendations,” said Stonebarger. “They felt that I was capable of being a candidate for this program, and here I am. It is always good to have the opportunity to represent my classmates, teachers, family and school.”
U.S. Presidential Scholars include one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts. The students have to demonstrate outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, as well as contributions to school and community.
To be eligible to participate in the program, students must be U.S. citizens and will graduate or receive a diploma between January and August of the current program year. Scoring exceptionally well on either the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) exams during a two-year window is also mandatory and students must be invited to apply to the Presidential Scholars Program. For the candidates, being selected was a reflection on all of the hard work they put in throughout their entire high school years.
“When talking in terms of studying, no matter what it may be for, this program or any other – you can always find resources on line,” said Harris. “Plus, I found that my teachers here at Kinnick have always been very supportive in the sense that they would tell me hey, ‘these are the kinds of questions, words or mathematical equations that will be on the SAT/ACT. I really appreciate those lessons in life, and I planto continue to apply them in the near future.”
Appointed by the President, a group of up to 32 distinguished citizens given the distinction of being the Commission on Presidential Scholars will make the final selection of scholars. Once the selections are made, the U.S. Department of Education will announce the Scholars in May.
In June, the selectees will be invited to Washington, DC to receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at a recognition ceremony and to participate in events and activities with their elected representatives, educators, and other leading individuals in public life.
When asked if winning the award gives the students the chance to meet the President of the United States, Barrack Obama himself – all three students appeared to be spellbound.
“I would be speechless to receive this award from President Barrack Obama,” said Leonard. “I actually feel lucky to be a part of this because I just recently changed my citizenship from Japanese to American, so it is just an honor.”
Stonebarger and Harris had a similar feeling towards the President.
“I am extremely honored to be considered for this award,” said Stonebarger. “If I win this award, I would be awestruck to receive it from President Obama. I feel that he is such a symbol for what is great about our country – diversity.”
For more information on the Presidential Scholars Program please visit: www2.ed.gov/programs/psp