They are among 25 New York candidates up for the national honor.
Two area high school seniors are in the running for the 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, representing excellence in education and the promise of greatness in young people.
Olivia Keller of Palmyra-Macedon High School and Jonathan Switzer of James A. Beneway High School in the Wayne Central School District are among 23 other New Yorkers vying for the prestigious honor bestowed annually at the White House in June.
“Every year, one young man and one young woman from each state are named as Presidential Scholars,” said MaryEllen Elia, New York State Education Commissioner who has announced 25 Empire State candidates. “The distinguished nominees are representative of the many talented high school students across our state. Their commitment to academic excellence sets a strong example for their peers and I am pleased to recognize their accomplishments.”
Keller was nominated by Assemblyman Bob Oaks, R-Macedon, who called her an exceptional senior.
“Olivia is ranked second in her class and excels not only in college-level academics but is also a three-sport varsity athlete and the current class president,” Oaks wrote for her nomination. “She is a devoted member of the Pal-Mac community; however, her community service has extended beyond her hometown internationally to Kenya and Peru. I congratulate Olivia on this outstanding achievement and wish her all the best as she moves forward in the Presidential Scholars Program.”
Switzer was nominated by state Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, who said she was proud to recommend him as an outstanding candidate for recognition for excellence in career and technical education.
“Jon is a diligent and responsible student who holds himself to a high standard,” Helming noted. “His near-perfect attendance demonstrates his motivation to be at school every day, and to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of his goals. In his career and technical conservation program, Jon serves as a role model to his classmates and supports those who struggle with different aspects of the program. He continues to make his entire community proud, and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."
Students chosen as U.S. Presidential Scholars receive a trip to Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House. During their visit to Washington, scholars will meet important national and international figures, including government officials, educators, authors, musicians and scientists.
The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by executive order of President Lyndon Johnson to recognize and honor some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended by President Jimmy Carter to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. In 2015, the program was expanded by President Barack Obama to recognize student excellence in Career and Technical Education programs.
“This year’s nominees exhibit exceptional leadership qualities and prove that creativity and perseverance can make a positive impact,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “These students have worked hard to excel in school and in their communities, and their dedication offers us hope for our future. I am proud of these young people who will represent New York State as they move to the national selection phase.”
The majority of scholars, like Keller, are selected on the basis of broad academic achievement, under the original program. Approximately 20 additional students each are selected in the other accomplishment paths on the basis of their academic and artistic scholarship in the visual arts, performing arts or creative writing; and outstanding scholarship and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.
Annually, about 4,000 students nationwide are invited to apply based on their performance on SAT and ACT tests with 20 females and 20 males selected from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and from families of U.S. citizens living abroad.
Each Chief State School Officer may also nominate up to 20 — 10 females and 10 males — based on outstanding scholarship. In New York, that is Elia. Keller is one of her 20 selections in the academics and arts categories; and Switzer is one of five CTE nominees.
The program also partners with several recognition organizations with each nominating up to 40 candidates.
Student applications are reviewed by a committee of experienced educators who evaluate them based on academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities; plus an essay analysis.
About 800 semifinalists are forwarded in the spring to the Commission on Presidential Scholars, which selects up to 161.
More than 7,000 scholars have been honored since the program's inception.