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Two Blue Valley North High School seniors named 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars

Two Kansas students are being recognized as 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. 

Seven Kansas students were selected in April as semifinalists for the 2023 Presidential Scholars Program. From that list, two students were named Presidential Scholars – Elizabeth “Lizzie” Rushing Place, of Leawood, a senior at Blue Valley North High School, Blue Valley Unified School District 229, and Luke Wen-Tsu Chen, of Overland Park, also a senior at Blue Valley North High School, Blue Valley Unified School District 229. 

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program honors the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. 

Place and Chen are part of the 59th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, which is recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education (CTE) fields. 

With the addition of Place and Chen, Blue Valley North High School has had 13 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the past 25 years.  

“On behalf of the entire Blue Valley North community, I would like to express that we could not be prouder of both Lizzie and Luke,” said Dr. Tyson Ostroski, principal of Blue Valley North High School. “The honor of Presidential Scholar is a testament to the hard work and dedication they have demonstrated throughout their educational careers. Not only do they exhibit all the characteristics necessary for the scholarship, but they also are, most importantly, good people. Lizzie and Luke make us truly Mustang proud!” 

The Blue Valley North seniors both plan to attend Harvard University and have dual majors. 

Chen, 17, who is the son of Ronald Chen and Petronella Muresan, plans to study chemical and physical biology. He is a two-time national finalist for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad Program Study Camp; received perfect scores on the PSAT, SAT and ACT; was part of the two-time Science Olympiad state championship team; a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist; Ronald Reagan Leadership medalist; and has published national research. 

Chen also is president of the National Honor Society and worked with Ukrainian refugees in Romania in 2022. 

Place’s first major will be in history and literature with a focus on American studies, and her second major will be in American government. 

Place, 18, is the daughter of Jeffrey and Angela Place. She is a National Merit Scholarship finalist and received a full scholarship through the U.S. Department of State’s National Security Language Initiative for the Youth to study the Russian language and culture. 

Place is active in the Blue Valley North (BVN) debate and served as president of the team this year. She and her debate partner are the first team in BVN’s history to be ranked on the national coaches’ poll (No. 19 in the October 2022 poll), Place said. She has won numerous awards in debate and has been active in the Kansas Junior Classical League, BVN Student Council (senior class representative), BVN National Honor Society and BVN Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). 

Place has been a member of Girl Scouts of the USA since 2010 and created Take a Hike, KC, a website that lists trails in and around the Kansas City area, as her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Take a Hike, KC has more than 11,000 followers across three social media channels and has been featured in local media outlets.  

Place also has been involved in Global Ties KC, Overland Park Teen Council, Heartland Conservation Alliance, Prairie Roots Kansas, Lead to Read KC and the Kansas Legislature. She has won numerous awards. 

Each year, more than 5,000 candidates are identified for the program, which focuses on academic achievement and scoring exceptionally well on the SAT or the ACT. Candidacy materials are mailed to students for participation in the program. Application is by invitation only; students don’t apply individually, nor do schools nominate students. This year, Kansas had 83 students selected as candidates. 

From the pool of candidates, about 600 candidates are selected as semifinalists each year, and their names and supporting materials are forwarded to the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.  

Seven Kansas students, including Place and Chen, were selected as 2023 semifinalists. The remaining five semifinalists are: 

  • Lisa Hi, of Overland Park, Blue Valley West High School, Blue Valley USD 229. 
  • Sukesh Kamesh, of Kingman, Kingman High School, Kingman 331. 
  • Isobel Li, of Overland Park, Olathe North High School, Olathe USD 233. 
  • Shishir Vargheese, of Overland Park, Blue Valley West High School, Blue Valley USD 229. 
  • Annalesa Wright, of Alma, Wabaunsee High School, Wabaunsee USD 329, semifinalist for U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education (CTE). 

In April of every year, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars reviews the applications of all semifinalists and selects up to 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars. 

The majority of scholars are selected based on academic achievement. About 20 students are selected based on their academic and artistic achievement in the visual arts, performing arts or creative writing. Another 20 students are selected based on their ability and accomplishment in CTE fields. 

All candidates must complete and submit candidacy materials for review, including essays, self-assessments, secondary school reports and transcripts.  

Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored nearly 8,000 of the nation’s top-performing students who have demonstrated scholarship, leadership artistic excellence and selfless service to others. The program expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literacy and performing arts. In 2015, the program was once again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in CTE fields. 

U.S. Presidential Scholars are honored for their accomplishments during the National Recognition Program in June. To commemorate their achievement, scholars are awarded the Presidential Scholars Medallion. 

A complete list of 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars candidates, semifinalists and finalists is available at http://www.ed.gov/psp

Posted: May 12, 2023,
Categories: KSDE,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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