Commitment to Academics, Leadership, Character, and Community Set Two Bronxville Seniors Apart from 3.6 Million US High School Seniors
'One in a million’ is an idiomatic expression that essentially conveys the distinction of specialness. But what does it mean to be one in 3.6 million? For that answer, look no further than Bronxville High School, where two seniors- Aarna Pal-Yadav and Lou-Fei Sung, have been selected as candidates for the 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program (PSP).
Aarna and Lou-Fei are among the mere 5,000 candidates who were selected for this prestigious program out of 3.6 million students expected to graduate this year. For those doing the math, that’s approximately one percent of the US high senior population. To that end, the Presidential Scholars Program is one of the highest honors bestowed on seniors who demonstrate excellence in academic and artistic achievement, leadership qualities, strong character, and involvement in community and school activities.
The opportunity to apply for the PSP is by invitation only, students do not independently apply and are not nominated by their school. “I was pleasantly surprised when I first found out about my nomination for the Presidential Scholars Program, as I did not previously know about it. Nevertheless, the news was exciting,” said Lou-Fei. Aarna felt similarly. “I had heard of the program, but most of the people who I saw being nominated had a background or accomplishments in the arts, and I assumed that was the focus of the scholarship. My academic accomplishments are very much focused on sciences, so my being selected as a candidate came as a surprise to me. After being selected I read more about the scholarship program, and I realized that the program selection criteria are broad-based,” said Aarna.
It is not hard to understand why these Bronxville seniors were selected as candidates for the PSP. In addition to academic excellence, both students demonstrate a penchant for leadership roles. Lou-Fei is a captain of the varsity football team and Aarna is the Secretary-General of the school Model United Nations club, co-President of the school Math Club, Editor-in-Chief and Website Manager of the school newspaper, the Echo, and co-President of the town chapter of TASSEL, a non-profit organization that provides remote-English language education to Cambodian children to open opportunities for higher education. “This cause is close to my heart, as I believe that increasing access to education is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty,” said Aarna.
The Bronxville School has played an important role in Aarna and Lou-Fei’s accomplishments as students. “My experience at Bronxville has been great, and the welcoming community has consistently helped me mature as an individual in all aspects of my life,” said Lou-Fei. “I would not be where I am today if not for the Bronxville community. I would like to extend a huge thank-you to all my teachers—especially Ms. Kim, Ms. McClellan, and Mr. Klurfeld—for pushing me to apply what I learn in school to the real world. I would also like to thank Ms. Meyer for providing us with an amazing educational environment. Because of her leadership, I and other students feel a great sense of ownership and participation in our education, ” said Aarna.
Aarna and Lou-Fei have the full support and encouragement of their teachers, administrators, and school community. "I am so proud to be Lou-Fei's high school counselor. Over the past three years, I have seen him grow as a student, athlete, leader, musician, and person. This honor would be so well-deserved!" said Deana Hasandjekaj, School Counselor at Bronxville High School. "Aarna is a wonderful candidate for the US Presidential Scholars program, as she demonstrates so many remarkable qualities. This is the second year I've had the pleasure of working with Aarna in the classroom, and her abilities as a student are truly impressive. But even more impressive is the consistent enthusiasm she brings to all of the many, many endeavors she is engaged with at the school. Aarna has incredible energy and takes on leadership roles in so many different areas, it's hard to imagine she has any free time," said Steve Klurfeld, one of Aarna’s teachers.
About that free time, the students make sure to find time for activities outside of school that reflect their interests and provide a source of enjoyment. For Lou-Fei, it’s playing the piano, video games, and just hanging out with the friends in what he described as ‘this great community’. Aarna has always been fascinated by birds, and amateur ornithology has become a passion of hers. Besides birdwatching, she enjoys learning everything she can about ‘these fascinating creatures’. “I would love to share that knowledge with the Bronxville community by creating a Bird of the Day mailing list, in which I would share some fun facts about a new bird each day,” said Aarna.
The next step for the students will be to submit an application to the PSP that includes sections on self-assessments, community service and activities, special talents, work experience, and a candidate essay on a topic provided by the PSP. 600 semi-finalists will be chosen in April. Finalists will be selected in May by The Committee on Presidential Scholars, a group of 32 eminent citizens chosen by the President.
The district congratulates Aarna and Lou-Fei on their outstanding achievements and accomplishments. Whatever the odds end up being through the finalist process, sometimes the cliché can also be true, it really just is an honor to be nominated.