Priyanka Goyal a ‘Presidential Scholar’

One of just 140 chosen from across the country.

Priyanka Goyal, a member of ’s graduating class, has been named for an exceptional honor: She has been chosen as a United States Presidential Scholar, one of some 140 such to be tapped for this distinction.

She was selected from a pool of approximately 500 graduating seniors nationwide under consideration, and is one of the two New Jerseyans to have been named. Only two students, one male and one female, are selected to represent each state . (Goyal’s male counterpart is from a charter school in Ridgewood.)

The total number of appointees also includes a Young Arts  contingent.

The United States Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by Executive Order of the President to honor the nation’s distinguished graduating high school seniors. Students do not apply for the honor, but are chosen by an impartial screening committee—initially on the basis of their SAT or ACT scores. Candidacy materials are then mailed to the selected students for participation in the program, leading to further examination of their records.

The candidates’ assessment process includes such materials as essays, secondary school reports and transcripts, self-evaluations, all of which elements are reviewed by the screening committee who then pass the names of some 500 semifinalists  on to the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. It is from this number that the Commission selects up to 121 Academic Scholars and 20 Arts Scholars.

What does an Academic Scholar look like? If you may judge from  Warren resident Priyanka Goyal, the answer is: just like a lot of other graduating seniors. Her guidance counselor, Barbara Meyers, describes Goyal as: “dedicated, hard-working, energetic, always smiling.” What makes her special is that she’s an SAT Commended Scholar as well as an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction (having earned credits in 13 AP courses), was a member of the 2011 Governor’s School of Engineering & Technology, is the recipient of   a $4,000 New Jersey Institute of Technology Academic Fellowship for her submission to the Intel New Jersey Regional Science Fair, has been enrolled in ten honors courses at Watchung Hills.

Extra-curricular activities are part of Goyal’s schedule as well. She’s captain of the Academic Team, is on the Fencing Team, serves as senior representative on the Grade Level Council, is a member of the school newspaper (Arrowhead) staff, is president of LINK (Liberty in North Korea) and vice-president of the Gay/Straight Alliance.

What really impressed Meyers: “She needed a machine that sells for $10,000 to complete her   project in the Experimental Research & Design course; she built it herself. That’s a wow factor!”

Outside of school, she’s a Girl Scout who’s earned the Silver Award and is a member of the Watchung First Aid Squad.

The Presidential Scholars will be honored for their accomplishments during National Recognition Weekend some time in June. They will enjoy an expense- paid trip to Washington to meet  government officials, authors, musicians, educators, scientists and other accomplished people, will visit museums and  monuments, and attend various receptions and   ceremonies. Most  fittingly, they will each receive a Presidential Scholars Medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House.

In addition, each Presidential Scholar will be asked to identify one teacher who has     been of the most influence; they. too, are invited to attend the recognition events. They will be honored at a special reception and presented with a Teacher Recognition Award. In Goyal’s case, that person is Dr. Sophia Gershman, the teacher who, over the years, has been the inspiration of countless physics students besides Goyal at Watchung Hills.


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