Charles Page High School senior Sean Kuehn is among nine state students to be selected as semifinalists for the U.S. Presidential Scholars award, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students, by the U.S. Department of Education.
From those nine, two from Oklahoma will be selected as members of the 2021 Presidential Scholars class to be announced in May.
The other Oklahoma semifinalists are Brady M. Read of Tulsa, Broken Arrow High School; Shrea Tyagi of Broken Arrow, Union High School; Emily Jordan Benelli Ward of Locust Grove, Locust Grove High School; Braden Burns of Kingfisher, Kingfisher High School; Nicholas V. Papavassiliou of Norman, Norman North High School; Alexander Steele of Guthrie, Edmond North High School; Celina Zhao of Edmond, Edmond Memorial High School; and Jessica Nicole Zimmerman of Ardmore, Plainview High School.
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.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects as many as 161 graduating seniors 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, out of nearly 3.6 million graduating high school seniors from across the country, more than 6,500 were identified as candidates for the program, and the finalists were narrowed from there.
Kuehn said he’s “just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. To be selected as one of the 161 is a really high honor.”
Kuehn, who recently was named a 2021 Academic All-Stater by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, added, “This is academic all-state but for the country, and so it’s really exciting to even be considered on that scale.”
The Presidential Scholars semifinalist selection is just the latest honor in Kuehn’s collection. Besides the Academic All-State selection, he was chosen in February as one of two state delegates to the 59th annual U.S. Senate Youth Program, an honor that comes with a $10,000 scholarship.
He is the national president of the Technology Student Association; is a member of State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Student Advisory Council; serves on Oklahoma CareerTech Director Marcie Mack’s Student Advisory Committee; has twice been a page at the state Capitol for Rep. Jadine Nollan, who represents Sand Springs in the state Legislature; is in the National Honor Society; is captain of the Charles Page academic team; and dances with Tulsa Ballet’s Center for Dance Education.
For Kuehn, who will attend Columbia University’s preeminent School of International and Public Affairs in New York City in the fall, being a semifinalist “is recognition for the last four years of work.”
But if he is chosen to be a Presidential Scholar, “that would be a very high honor,” he said. “I don’t believe we’ve had a Presidential Scholar at (Charles Page) High School in the past. It would be very exciting to be the first and to represent Sand Springs in that way.”
Kuehn, whose mother is Catherine Miller, the customer support manager at Omni Air International in Tulsa, is quick to give credit to his academic support system, too.
He said his selection as a semifinalist for a national honor is “really meaningful, though, because it shows that we have some of the best teachers, some of the best resources, and some of the best opportunities for students to plug in and make the most of their education journey right here in Sand Springs.”
Hofmeister said in a news release that “we are proud to salute these exceptional seniors, who have excelled in the face of an unprecedented pandemic that has impacted all schools. Their dedication, resilience and leadership in their schools and communities are to be commended.”