Jan. 27, 2004 Three V.I. high school students, including one St. John resident, have been selected as candidates for the 2004 United States Presidential Scholars Program.
Established in 1964 by Executive Order of the President, the program seeks to recognize and honor some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
Chosen from a pool of nearly 2.8 million students, the three candidates are Antilles students Emily Luscz and Bilal Belardo, and Danielle Smith, from Country Day School on St. Croix. None of them knew they had been selected ahead of time; they were notified first by mail.
According to the program's official Web site, the selection of approximately 2,600 academic candidates is made based on SAT and ACT scores, and application is by invitation only.
Remarkably, the three high school students — one from each island, as it turns out — seem remarkably unfazed by the honor.
Belardo, who lives on St. John, is the son of William and Teresa Belardo. The Antilles senior first heard the news about being selected on the radio. In fact, he didn't yet have the paperwork. "I'm pretty happy I got accepted, I'm proud of myself that I could do this." Belardo plans to attend Harvard in the fall where he'll probably major in engineering or business, although he's currently undecided.
Luscz, the daughter of Becky and Ted Luscz, owners of Hook, Line and Sinker restaurant in Frenchtown, said, "I'm speechless." However, it didn't take long for her to get in the spirit of the program. Although she's honored to have been selected, Luscz did note, "It's really a lot of work."
And it is. Qualification for the semifinals is based on essays, self-assessments, artistic and academic accomplishments, as well as leadership qualities, character and involvement in community and school activities. A rigorous regimen.
Luscz will attend Dartmouth in the fall, after crewing on a Great Lakes schooner in the summer — something she has done for the past two years.
Smith, the daughter of Mary and Stephen Smith, was surprised by the news, too. "It's really cool, but it will be extra stress. One of my friends in the states also got accepted so it would be great if we were in it together." She said she hasn't made up her mind yet which school she will go to in the fall. "I'm still looking at the colleges and universities," she said. She will probably major in English with a Spanish minor.
The Commission on Presidential Scholars will select one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U. S. students living abroad, which is where the V.I. students fit in.
The winning students will be invited to Washington, D.C. in June, where they will be honored at a recognition ceremony and participate in several events with elected representatives. The U.S. Department of Education will announce the scholars in May.
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