Renny Takes DC

Senior Renny Ma will travel to Washington DC after being nominated for the Presidential Scholar award.


Colette Balas and Lexi Hart

Senior Renny Ma was unsure about her chances of winning awards and honors this year. However, Ma received a letter in the mail containing her nomination for the U.S. Presidential Scholar Award.

“I’m so excited [to be nominated]. My sister was actually nominated last year, and she was one of the people who went to Washington DC, and so I was kind of worried about it at the beginning of the year. I was like ‘I’m not going to win anything this year’ but then they sent me a letter that told me I was nominated for the Presidential scholar and I was really excited,” Ma said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 1964, the President established the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. This program acknowledges and honors some of the most prominent graduating seniors. The Presidential Scholar award is one of the highest honors for students; only 161 students are awarded each year.

“This nomination for Presidential Scholar Program is such an honor.  It is my understanding that there are 10 boys and 10 girls nominated from each state.  The results are narrowed down to the finalists with the program pending on the judges and their decisions.  The finalists are able to receive a paid trip for the award ceremony in Washington DC.” Katy Reda, counselor, said.

“They choose a certain number of students in the state, and it’s based on your ACT and SAT or a nomination by the chief officer of education,” Ma said.

Ma was nominated by her ACT composite score of a 35.

“They nominate a certain number of people then all of those people have to fill out an application, and so out of those people that fill out the application, a certain number get to go to Washington DC over the summer,” Ma said.

After being nominated, the student must fill out an application that contains essays and teacher recommendations. Reda found out about Renny’s nomination and has helped her out throughout the process. Renny is Reda’s first student to be nominated for this program.

Shawnee Mission West received a letter notification that Renny was nominated for the Presidential Scholar Program. We are now working on finishing up her application from the school. Renny has an intense application to complete with several essays,” Reda said.

“There are five essays [in the application] and there’s a sixth and shorter one where you talk about which teacher has affected you and how they have affected you,” Ma said, “[The teacher recommendations] are kind of different from regular recommendations; it’s not one letter and multiple teachers don’t submit their own, it’s actually a big form with a lot of different questions and what’s happening for me is that my counselor and a couple of my teachers are getting together to collaborate on it.”

Receiving this nomination requires hard work, dedication, and the desire to push oneself. It is a huge honor that doesn’t come cheap.

“I would suggest that any student continue to excel with academics, leadership, community involvement, and strive for high test scores. Renny would be any school counselor’s favorite student.  She challenges herself with the highest classes as well as seeks advice.  This is not always the case with every high achieving student,” Reda said.