Presidential Scholars list released

Olivia Phillips

Thirteen seniors were nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

The nominees (all ’23) are Jack Austen, Kieran Chung, Print Managing Editor Claire Conner, Presentation Managing Editor Fallon Dern, Photo Editor Raisa Effress, Yoshimi Kimura, Alejandro Lombard, Carter Staggs, Jialong Wu, Audrey Yang, Eric Yoon, Executive Editor Emmy Zhang and Elsa Zhou. Dern, Effress and Lombard were nominated as Presidential Scholars of the Arts.

The program was established in 1964 to honor high school seniors demonstrating academic excellence and has since expanded to include the artistic and technical fields.

Seniors across the country are invited to apply for the program based on their standardized test scores, and nominees are chosen from each state. For the Presidential Scholar in the Arts designation, the national YoungArts competition nominates up to 60 of their finalists.

Previously, alumni such as Allison Park ’21 and Charlie Kogen ’19 have received the Presidential Scholar award.

Staggs said although he appreciates the recognition, the selection process concerns him.

“It’s awesome to be nominated, but it’s entirely based on standardized test scores”, Staggs said. “There’s no human component. The application is meant to flesh you out as a person, but it doesn’t define my character by any means.”

Upper School Dean Nia Kilgore, a former reviewer of Presidential Scholar applications, said students are selected based on how well they would represent the country.

“My job exclusively was to read those [applications] and find who I thought could represent their state in a way that showed off their excellence in whatever they do,” Kilgore said. “I think that in the Harvard-Westlake environment, our size and the robust nature of our academics and extracurricular programs all lend itself to developing students who would be qualified for [the Presidential Scholars program].”

Kimura said she appreciates her nomination and the program’s commitment to acknowledging diverse backgrounds and fields.

“I do think that there are significantly more valuable metrics of student excellence than standardized test performance, so I’m glad that the program attempts to include nominations from a variety of backgrounds like YoungArts,” Kimura said. “Though I don’t anticipate winning this scholarship, I’m grateful that I was up for consideration in the first place.”