The state Department of Career Education announced Wednesday that an Arkansas student has been recognized for the first time as a U.S. Presidential Scholar, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields.
At a press conference held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in West Little Rock, ADCE Director Charisse Childers introduced Nettleton High School student Jordon Lee as one of the 160 high school students named to the 52th U.S. Presidential Scholars class last month by the U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King.
Lee and other Arkansas students became eligible for the national honor as part of the Arkansas Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which is housed in ADCE. Lee told a crowd of about 75 people gathered at the event that being involved in career and technical education has allowed him to travel the country, network with business and education leaders and gain valuable experience that will help him in the future.
“This is a great honor and will open many doors for me,” said Lee, who will be attending Vanderbilt University in the fall. “When I joined Arkansas CTE, I really didn’t know if it was the right thing for me, but I’m so glad that I stuck with it. It has changed my life.”
In addition to Lee, three other finalists for this year’s award are also from Arkansas. Each student took CTE courses in high school as part of their required graduation curriculum, state officials said. The other students are:
• Chase Hunger of Bentonville High School. Hunger is a 2015-2016 DECA President and will be attending Oklahoma University this fall;
• Abigail Sander of Oark High School. Sanders is also a Wallace Carver Intern this summer at UC-Davis California through the World Food Prize program; and
• Hailey Crowder of Heber Springs High School. She was the 2016-2017 Family, Career and Community Leaders of America vice president and will be attending Arkansas State University as a nursing student.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Obama, selects honored 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.
“This year’s class of Presidential Scholars continues a more than 50-year trend of honoring students who’ve shown excellence in their educational, artistic and civic pursuits,” King said. “Thirty years ago, the program was expanded to include students in the arts, which is critical to providing students with a well-rounded education. Now, we’ve added 20 more slots to honor our highest achieving students in career and technical education, reflecting the Department’s belief that a quality education must be a well-rounded education that prepares students for college, careers and any other civic service.”
Of the three million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,600 candidates qualified for the 2016 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.
The 2016 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 for the first time 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education.
Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored almost 7,000 of the nation’s top-performing students with the prestigious award given to honorees during the annual ceremony in D.C. 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 2016 ceremony will be held June 19, when each honoree will receive a Presidential Scholar Medallion.