Skip to main content


December 9, 2016
For More Information Contact:

JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



NYS Education Department Announces Nominees For 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

Twenty-five New York State high school seniors have been nominated for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced today.  The Presidential Scholar recognition is one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.  Every year, one young man and one young woman from each state are named as Presidential Scholars.

“Each nominee is an example of the limitless capacity for greatness of our young people today,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa.  “Their creativity, hard work and community service are deserving of this prestigious recognition and I have no doubt that, as they graduate high school and go on to bright futures, they will fulfill their vast promise as leaders in whatever they pursue.”

“When students challenge themselves and commit themselves to excellence, the results can be astounding,” Commissioner Elia said.  “All of these nominees have demonstrated exceptional academic success, artistic excellence or career skills development.  They represent the best of New York’s future and show a real drive to make the world a better place.”

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors.  In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Last year, the program was expanded to recognize student excellence in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

Students chosen as U.S. Presidential Scholars receive an expense-paid trip to Washington, D. C. in June and the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House. During their visit to Washington, Scholars will meet important national and international figures, including government officials, educators, authors, musicians and scientists. 

For more information on the U.S. Scholars Program please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Below are comments from the legislators who recommended the 25 students.

The Academics and Arts Nominees for the 2017 Presidential Scholars Program:

Allison Kotas, Lancaster High School

Miranda Rasch, Blind Brook High School

Sofia Gutierrez, West Hempstead High School

Sarah Shamoon, NYC Lab High School for Collaborative Studies

Lisa Chizmadia, North Rockland High School

Joanna Ramirez, Saunders Trade and Technical High School

Emily Breclaw, East Syracuse-Minoa Central High School

Victoria Blydenburgh, Westhampton Beach High School

Epiphany Ramirez, Walt Whitman High School

Cheyenne Boone, North Rose-Wolcott High School

William Pace, Cortland High School

Caleb Graham, International Preparatory School at Grover Cleveland

Jose Nunez, The Metropolitan High School

Julian Mitchell-Israel, The Special Music School

Jerry Registre, North Rockland High School

Dioni Vega, Yonkers Montessori Academy

Evan Tambolleo, Watervliet Junior/Senior High School

Michael Bailey, Elmont Memorial High School

Jacob Citone, Albany High School

Evan Batov, Staten Island Technical High School

The Career and Technical Education Nominees for the 2017 Presidential Scholars Program:

Jon Stremovihtg, Avon High School

Tanner Yager, Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School

Siena Gates, Southampton High School

Santos Otero, Albany High School

Brenna Katsoudas, Niskayuna High School


Quotes by New York State Legislators on the Presidential Scholars Nominees:

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick: “I am thrilled that Sarah Shamoon and Julian Mitchell-Israel have been nominated for the Presidential Scholars Award.  Both Shamoon and Mitchell-Isreal have been leaders in their school and local communities and it is wonderful that young people like Sarah and Julian are getting recognition from New York State for their hard work, perseverance and community engagement.  While they are standouts in their schools, they are representative of many fine young people upon whom our future rests.  It is students like Sarah and Julian that make New York, and this Country a better place.  I wish them the best of luck, and hope that the National Committee also recognizes their unique contributions.” 

Assemblymember John T. McDonald, III: “I am honored and pleased that Evan Tambolleo, from the 108th Assembly District, is being nominated for the Presidential Scholars Program.  Evan is a fine example of the goodness and promise in our youth and it is because of his efforts that he has been nominated for this prestigious award.  I appreciate the support of Commissioner Elia in nominating this young individual and I am excited that he is being advanced to the next level.”

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy: "I could not be more proud to have helped nominate and to see Albany High School students Jacob Citone and Santos Otero recognized as Presidential Scholars nominees.  Jacob is an exceptionally well-rounded student who participates on the Varsity Tennis and Cross Country teams, in addition to being a percussionist.  Santos, as a third-year career and technical education student, has been diligent in the craft of carpentry and is focused on improving his community.  I commend both of these students and wish them success in their future endeavors."

Assemblymember James Skoufis: "I'm thrilled that Commissioner Elia will be advancing the nominations of Jerry Registre and Lisa Chizmadia.  These two exemplary North Rockland students have overcome significant adversity and are role models for their peers and all New Yorkers.  Both Jerry and Lisa are Stony Point residents, a town I am privileged to represent.  They'll continue to make their neighbors proud as their nominations move forward."

Assemblymember Shelley Mayer: “I am delighted to learn that New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia selected two Yonkers Public School students, both of whom I recommended, as nominees from New York State for the Presidential Scholars Program.  Joanna Ramirez, a student at Saunders Trades and Technical High School, has demonstrated tremendous persistence and determination in turning her own challenges into opportunities for herself and her entire school community.  Dioni Vega, a student at Yonkers Montessori School has excelled academically and demonstrated exemplary focus and leadership.  As he has pushed himself, he has pushed his colleagues to achieve.  Both Joanna and Dioni have the qualities of persistence, focus and determination that are so essential in successful scholars and human beings.  I congratulate Dioni and Joanna and wish them all the best as they move forward in the Presidential Scholars Program.”

Assemblymember Al Stirpe: “I am incredibly honored to congratulate Central New York's very own Emily Breclaw, of East Syracuse-Minoa Central High School, on being nominated for the Presidential Scholar Program.  Her nomination has inspired those around her and is a prime example of the positive impact that hard work and dedication to academic success can have on our community.  I wish her all the best in the next round of selections and the best of luck with her future endeavors.”

Assemblymember Michaelle C. Solages: “Our community would like to congratulate Elmont Memorial High School Senior Michael Bailey on his nomination by the New York State Department of Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia for the prestigious Presidential Scholars Program. Michael is an excellent role model for others, challenging himself throughout high school, as well as demonstrating his ability to persevere and achieve his goals.  He has made the Sewanhaka Central High School District and the Twenty-second Assembly District very proud.  We wish him the best of luck as he moves into the next phase of this national competition.”

Assemblymember Fred Thiele: “I am thrilled that Commissioner Elia has chosen two of my local students to be part of the 25 New York State high school seniors she nominates for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program!  Ms. Victoria Blydenburgh of Westhampton Beach High School and Ms. Siena Gates of Southampton High School are outstanding students who stand out as having academic success, leadership qualities, and extraordinary personal achievements.  I am proud to represent these fine young women in the First Assembly District and wish them luck as they move to the national level as finalists in this notable competition."

Assemblymember Phil Steck: "I am thrilled that Brenna Katsoudas has been chosen by Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia as one of the nominees for the Presidential Scholars Program.  Brenna’s commitment to excellence in her educational endeavors has been an example of success throughout her school community.  Her hard work and positive attitude have made her an outstanding example of the youth in New York State and the Capital Region.  I would like to congratulate Brenna and her family on this achievement and wish her continued success in the future.”

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan: “I am pleased that Commissioner Elia has nominated Allison Kotas of Lancaster High School and Jon Stremovihtg of Avon High School for the Presidential Scholars Program.  These individuals have worked hard to excel in both their school and their community and offer hope and promise for our future.  I congratulate them on their nomination for this prestigious award and wish them continued success.”

Senator James L. Seward: “I am extremely pleased to congratulate Tanner Yager of Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School and William Pace of Cortland High School, along with the rest of New York State’s candidates for a coveted Presidential Scholarship.  Both of these young men from the 51st Senate District are exemplary students and well-rounded, community-minded individuals.  Along with their accomplishments, William and Tanner also show boundless potential for future greatness.  I look forward to following news of their achievements as their potential is unlocked.  Best of luck to all of New York State’s nominees – they are our leaders of tomorrow.”

Senator Ruben Diaz: "I am delighted to publicly congratulate Jose Nuñez, his family and Metropolitan High School on this exceptional honor.  As the only student nominated by the Commissioner from Bronx County, Mr. Nuñez's nomination for the Presidential Scholars Program is very special to me.  I am so proud of Jose.  I trust and pray that he will continue to advance his education and expand his horizons to achieve whatever he puts his mind and his heart to."

Senator Todd Kamisnky: "I am thrilled that West Hempstead’s Sofia Gutierrez has been nominated by the New York State Education Commissioner to be considered for the Presidential Scholars Program.  She is a leader in and out of the classroom and sets a strong example for her peers.  Her wealth of accomplishments prove that hard work and passion for community can make a difference at any age.  We'll all be rooting for her as she enters the national competition."

Senator Timothy M. Kennedy: “Caleb Graham is not only an outstanding student and mentor, but he is an engaged advocate in our community who dedicates himself to paving the way towards a better Buffalo.  He has harnessed the personal challenges he conquered as a youth and used his energy to lead by example.  Those who know him well describe him as dedicated, honest, ambitious and resilient.  I am thrilled he has been nominated for the Presidential Scholars Program, and I wish him the best of luck as he continues his inspirational journey.”

Senator George Latimer: "I join with the friends and family of Miranda Rasch, as well as her teachers and the entire Blind Brook School District in congratulating Miranda on being chosen as a nominee in the 2017 Presidential Scholars Program.  Once again, the New York State Education Department has put together an outstanding list of nominees, and I know that Miranda Rasch is right up there at the top.  Miranda has been nominated for one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a high school senior, and through her hard work and dedication to her education and community, she is certainly worthy of such high esteem."

Assemblymember Bob Oaks: “I am pleased that Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia selected Cheyenne Boone, an exemplary senior at North Rose-Wolcott High School, as a nominee from New York State, for the Presidential Scholars Program.  Cheyenne, who I recommended for this prestigious honor, is a member of the National Honor Society and is involved in many class activities.  She is a scholar athlete and excels in art with an emphasis on photography.  Her teachers praise her as a positive role model for her two siblings as well as other members of the student body.  I wish her much good fortune as she moves forward in the Presidential Scholars Program, which since 1964, has recognized high school seniors on the basis of outstanding scholarship.”

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis: "I'm so very thrilled with Evan's nomination to be a Presidential Scholar.  He's proven himself to be an academic top gun, with a sense of social responsibility uncommon in people his age.  I wish him the best of luck in the next round with the understanding that, no matter what happens, he's done Staten Island Tech and all of Staten Island proud!"

Assemblymember Chad A. Lupinacci: “It is truly remarkable, the feats that Epiphany Ramirez has accomplished at such a young age.  When I first met Epi, I could tell by the way she conducted herself that she was an outstanding young lady – little did I know that just a few months later she would be an intern in my District Office.  Epiphany is intuitive, intellectual and – in more than one language – an excellent communicator.  If Epiphany’s exceptional qualities and intangible people skills are any indication, she is destined for great things.”



Media Contact

Reporters and education writers may contact the Office of Communications by email or phone at:
(518) 474-1201