Michael Adeyi from the Sidwell Friends School in northwest D.C. and Samantha O’Sullivan of School Without Walls along G Street in Northwest were among 161 students from across the country named 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week announced the 54th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, which recognizes high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.
“I want to congratulate this year’s class of Presidential Scholars on their achievement and also thank their parents, teachers and other academic advisors who have helped guide them along the way,” DeVos said in a news release. “These students have pushed themselves to be the best they can be, and I am certain that devotion will serve them well as they continue their individual learning journeys.”
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects 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 3.6 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,200 candidates qualified for the 2018 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, through nominations made by Chief State School Officers, other partner recognition organizations or the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide YoungArts competition.
The 2018 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 from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at large, 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education.
Michael, a soccer standout, authored the 2015 book, “In It to Lose It: A Story of Soccer and Deception.” The book recounted the tale of Chris Sterling and how his life was turned upside down when he was caught drinking at a summer party.
One of the top soccer prospects, Sterling had to work to clear his name as he began his senior year in high school. Suspended for the first week of preseason because of the suspension and struggling academically, Sterling needs to impress both on and off the field to keep his college dreams alive.
Michael wrote that, with the corruption of college recruiting, staying out of trouble can become a perilous task, and the players are not the only ones breaking the rules.
A senior at School Without Walls Senior High School, Samantha started and leads an after-school club that engages African-American middle school students in fun and educational science activities, to promote their interest and self-confidence in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.
“As an African-American girl pursuing math and physics, I have often found that professionals in my field of interest do not look like me,” she said in a previously published interview.
She recalls walking into a physics lab for her first internship and “feeling immediately out of place,” Samantha told television station Cleveland 19.
Determined that “no student should doubt their own ability or face any kind of hardship because of their race or gender,” Samantha launched her “STEM Up!” club.
After meeting with principals and the heads of science departments at several middle schools, Samantha found support and a sponsoring science teacher at Stuart Hobson Middle School.
She assembled materials and planned activities for her club, and then began holding club meetings after school every Tuesday and Thursday.
About 15 middle schoolers attend each two-hour meeting, engaging in hands-on activities such as robot-building and chemistry and biology experiments.
“By creating a space where African-American girls feel confident to ask questions and explore STEM amongst other students that look like them, I have seen their self-confidence increase, and their ability and skills in science flourish,” she said.
Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored almost 7,500 of the nation’s top-performing students with the prestigious award given to honorees during the annual ceremony in Washington.
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.
The 2018 ceremony will be held June 24, when each student will receive a Presidential Scholar Medallion.