Friday, June 14, 2024
Home » News » Community » State High Senior Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

State High Senior Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

A State College Area High School senior has been awarded one of the nation’s most distinguished student honors.

Prithvi Narayanan is one of just 161 high school seniors nationwide to be named a 2024 U.S. Presidential Scholar. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects students annually for the recognition based on academic success and excellence in the arts and in technical education.

He is one of two Pennsylvania students selected this year, joining Aneri Shethji, of North Allegheny High School in Wexford. State High classmate Lydia Shen was a semifinalist for the honor.

Narayanan is the eighth State High student to be named a Presidential Scholar and the first since Joey Feffer in 2017.

A notification email was sent to recipients midday on Thursday, but Narayanan had yet to see it when another student who learned of his selection congratulated him at about 2 p.m.. Narayanan wasn’t expecting notifications to be sent until next week and said he was “flabbergasted” by the news.

That was followed by celebratory phone calls with his parents, and calls from others.

“It was a crazy one hour between 2 and 3 p.m.,” he said. “It was a complete surprise and then everything kept happening all at once. It was very entertaining.”

Born and raised in State College and a student at SCASD schools since the first grade, Narayanan was quick to credit the school and local communities.

“It’s a tremendous honor, and I believe it’s a testament to our community,” he said. “It takes a town, it takes a community to really impress upon a student that firm belief in education and in making a difference. So I think this is beyond me; this is a testament to the work of my mentors, my family members, my younger sister, my neighbors, my teachers, my peers, my State High administrators, my figure skating coaches, my musical trainers and teachers.

“They’ve done so much for me and I wouldn’t be the person I am today as a U.S. Presidential Scholar if it weren’t for all those people who’ve touched my life in such a remarkable way. I’m extremely grateful to the State College community and I think this award belongs to them just as much as it is bestowed upon me.”

One of his teachers will receive special recognition, as scholars can name their most influential educators to receive a personal letter from the U.S. Secretary of Education. Narayanan picked Radio Park Elementary School’s Julie Jobe.

Narayanan learned in January year that he was nominated to apply for the Presidential Scholar program. Out of 3.7 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, about 5,700 candidates qualified for the awards based on outstanding performance on the SAT or ACT or through nominations made by chief state school officers or other partner recognition organizations, according to the U.S. Department of Education

He submitted transcripts, a series of essays and teacher nominations. He was named a semifinalist in April before learning he received the honor this week.

The 2024 Presidential Scholars include two students from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education. They are chosen for academic, artistic or technical education success, as well as a commitment to community service and leadership. 

“The 161 high school seniors selected for the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Presidential Scholars represent the best of our nation’s schools and inspire hope in the bright future of this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “On behalf of President Biden, I am delighted to celebrate their accomplishments, and encourage these scholars to continue to aim high, lift up others and embrace opportunities to lead.”

Narayanan’s accomplishments are many and varied. In addition to his academic success, he is a figure skater, a geography bee competitor, All-State Choir singer and an Indian classical music artist.

“There is no question that Prithvi is a star, but it should also be said that he’s a lot of fun to work with,” State High gifted support/learning enrichment teacher Jennifer Rand said. “Whether he’s engaging in equity work, designing a German pop culture class or practicing his ice skating forms, he’s all in. As a student, he is driven to engage in highly intellectual work and has taken full advantage of every opportunity available to him — just as he’s created many of his own. I am confident that he’ll go far.”

He’s also president of the State High student government, and recently completed his tenure as student representative to State College Borough Council, where he was a highly engaged and active participant.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Narayanan plans to study political science when he attends Yale University this fall.

His interest in politics started at a young age, spurred by an Oregon Scientific smart globe his parents gave him. A touch of a stylus would bring any location to life and he became enthralled with learning about different cultures and history, an experience he says introduced him “to exploration, geography and the diversity of our world.”

That brought him to politics. In the United States, he said, politics can be used to unify by building on the “profound diversity” of a nation of immigrants and native peoples, all of whom bring valuable cultures and ancestries to the table.

“The reason I’ve been so influenced and awestruck at the profession of politics is its ability to bring people together,” Narayanan said. “I think politics in and of itself has been deemed a pejorative term these days, but politics is the human experience and the human experience is politics. When two people with very different life experiences sit a table and have a colloquy, that is the essence of politics: bringing different ideas together, synthesizing them and moving forward.

“That’s the beauty of politics. The reason why I’m getting into politics is to bring people together and realize the ideal of America that we have for so long believed in, will always continue to believe in.”

Established in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored more than 8,200 of the nation’s top-performing students. This year’s honorees will will be recognized during a program this summer and will receive the Presidential Scholars medallion.

Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Education Khalid Mumin congratulated Narayanan and Shethji on behalf of the commonwealth.

“I am delighted to recognize Pennsylvania’s exceptional 2024 U.S. Presidential Scholars for being awarded one of the nation’s highest academic honors,” Mumin said in a statement. “These students worked extremely hard, engaged in community service and displayed outstanding leadership skills, and I am proud to have them represent the Commonwealth.”