State Superintendent Tony Evers recently congratulated five Wisconsin students who were named 2018 Presidential Scholars.

Along with Nabeel J. Quryshi from the University School of Milwaukee in Mequon, two of the state’s original 15 semifinalists were students of the Muslim faith, Alnaser Al‐Fawakhiri of Whitefish Bay High School in Shorewood, and Muhamed Sanneh, East Senior High School in Madison.

“The Presidential Scholars award is one of the highest honors given to high school graduates,” Evers said. “Congratulations to these students and thank you to the teachers and families who supported their success.”

The four other Wisconsin students selected as Presidential Scholars were Charles X. Hua, Xavier Lightfoot, Julian Rhee, and Sophia F. Sun. Last year when Quryshi was a junior, he won the prestigious First Place Grand Award in Biomedical and Health Sciences at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. That earned him $3,000 and the opportunity to have an asteroid or minor planet named after him.

The 2018 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 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education.

Lightfoot and Rhee were named Presidential Scholars in the Arts. To commemorate their achievement, the Scholars will receive the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a June ceremony sponsored by the White House.

Each scholar named a most influential teacher as part of their application materials. Those educators are: Ronn Blaha, mathematics teacher, Brookfield Central High School; Catherine Burnett, visual art teacher, Pius XI High School in Milwaukee; Dominic Johann-Berkel, English teacher, Madison West High School; Robert Juranitch, science teacher, University School of Milwaukee; and Almita Vamos, music teacher, Music Institute of Chicago.

Created in 1964, the Presidential Scholars Program has honored nearly 7,500 of the nation’s top-performing students. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects 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.

Of the 3.6 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,200 candidates qualified for the 2018 awards determined by outstanding performance on the ACT and SAT college admissions exams and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers, other partner recognition organizations, or the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide YoungArts competition.

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Christopher P. Ayers