Durham, Asheboro students named US Presidential Scholars

May 9, 2019

Three North Carolina students – two from the N.C. School of Science and Math in Durham and one from Asheboro High School – have been named 2019 Presidential Scholars by the U.S. Department of Education.

Of the approximately 3.6 million U.S. students expected to graduate from high school this year, only 5,200 qualified for the award, and just 161 students across the country were selected.

The three North Carolina students are:

Each year, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. The students will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington D.C. on June 23, where they will receive a Presidential Scholar Medallion.

“It’s incredible,” Jenny Huang told WRAL News in a statement. “I feel like this is such a good reflection of my entire education from kindergarten until now in the North Carolina public school system.”

Huang, who learned the news of her selection Tuesday morning and ran to tell NCSSM Dean of Science Amy Sheck, was enrolled in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools through her sophomore year.

“I’m really grateful for the foundational education I got there,” she said. “These past two years, NCSSM has really added on the real-world applications such as research, interview experiences, and communicating your work with an audience. Education has been a really liberating experience for me. A lot of people take education for granted, but my grandparents never got their formal education, so to be able not only to read and write but to be looking forward to a whole new world of ideas next year at Duke University – and hopefully graduate school after that – I feel very fortunate. Being selected as a Presidential Scholar is such a high honor.”

Huang and Jain are part of the residential program at NCSSM and have spent their junior and senior high school years living in dormitories at the school, taking rigorous courses, and being part of a community of some 665 students from across North Carolina.

Jain was also named a finalist this spring in the prestigious national Regeneron Science Talent Search for her research into biofuel production. She will attend Stanford University next year.

“For Regeneron, I was able to to travel to Washington and meet like-minded science researchers, people doing amazing things,” Jain said. “I jumped at another opportunity to meet amazing people like that, and for Presidential Scholars, that includes musicians, artists, and students in every other discipline.”

NCSSM Chancellor Todd Roberts praised Huang and Jain as “fantastic students.”

“Their trip to Washington, D.C., this June will allow them to meet scholars from all across the country, and I know that they will learn a great deal and enjoy and benefit from exchanging ideas, and forming new friendships,” he said.

Asheboro High School Principal Penny Crooks said her student, Isaac Diaz, “is highly respected by students and staff.”

“In a society that too often allows events and situations to define them, Isaac has risen above,” Crooks said. “He assesses what he has in his control and strives to excel in every way. Academically, he challenges himself to the most rigorous classes available, even if that means AP classes during 75 percent of his day. Socially, he doesn’t hide away at home. He is on the field supporting our football team; on the courts, supporting our basketball team; in the midst of National Honor Society; and navigating Prom as the Prom King he is! He never offers excuses, but sets the standards. Isaac doesn’t take the easy path, he blazes a trail for others to follow.”

Diaz said he is excited and honored to have been chosen.

“It is humbling to be recognized for my academic achievement despite the struggles I have faced,” he said. “I am especially thankful for my mom and dad for all their dedication and support. I also appreciate all the support my teachers and friends have had in me.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson congratulated the students on their award.

“The hard work and dedication of Isaac, Yijian, and Navami is an inspiration to all of North Carolina,” Johnson said in a statement. “They are extraordinary examples of the many great students we have across our state.”

As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 Scholars in the Arts and 20 Scholars in Career and Technical Education.

Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored more than 7,500 of the nation’s top-performing students. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

* Scholar for U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts ** Scholar for U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education



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