With graduation around the corner, six Alachua County students are vying for one of the nation’s most prestigious academic honors for high school seniors.
Eastside High School seniors Sophia Eikenberry, Noah Hagen, and Jessica Lee and Buchholz High School seniors Beverly Ge, David Geering, and Lillian Zhu were nominated in January from a pool of 3 million high school seniors for the 2016 Presidential Scholar award by the U.S. Department of Education.
Selection is based solely on SAT and ACT scores and is open to all public and private high school seniors across the U.S.
The application process requires students to submit an abundance of documentation including transcripts, proof of academic performance and extracurricular activities.
“It’s a very extensive application these students will have to fill out to be considered for this program”, said Jackie Johnson, spokeswoman for Alachua County Public Schools.
“It’s a significant honor, and we look forward to seeing how these students do,” she said.
Eikenberry, Hagen and Lee, all 17, are part of the International Baccalaureate Program at Eastside High. They each received a perfect 36 on their ACT exam.
“The fact that we were nominated was really surprising, but in the best way,” said Lee.
For all three Eastside High seniors, Brown University is their dream school. The esteemed Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island, accepts less than 10 percent of applicants.
Only one other high school in Florida had more candidates than Eastside and Buchholz –Design and Architecture Senior High School in Miami had four candidates.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, the program was established in 1964 to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished high school seniors. Up to 161 Presidential Scholars are recognized each year. If recognized, students are awarded an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet other scholars and government officials.
If one of the six students is named a Presidential Scholar, he or she will be the third student in five years recognized in Alachua County. Eastside High graduate Megan Matthew was honored in 2015.
The names of the 2016 Presidential Scholars are expected to be released in early May.
At last week’s Florida Board of Education meeting in Lakeland, Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier expressed that while she is proud of the progress Marion County public schools have made since 2016, she remains concerned about Evergreen Elementary, one of the remaining two D schools in Marion County.