Skip to main content


December 19, 2018
For More Information Contact:

JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



State Education Department Announces Nominees for 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

Recognition is Among Nation’s Highest Honors for High School Students

The State Education Department today nominated 25 New York State high school seniors for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced. 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. 

“These nominations represent the culmination of four years of hard work for each of these outstanding students,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “Each has shown drive and passion in achieving excellence in their educational, artistic and civic pursuits. I am proud of these young people who will represent New York State as they move on to the national selection phase.”

“These students have excelled in school and in their communities, and their dedication shows in their amazing accomplishments,” Commissioner Elia said. “Each nominee is a stellar representative of New York’s high schools. I thank our legislators for recommending these wonderful students and wish them each luck as they pursue this incredible honor.”

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Semifinalists will be notified in mid-April and Scholars will be notified in May.

Students chosen as U.S. Presidential Scholars receive a 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. Scholars are provided opportunities to: discuss issues that concern America and the world; attend recitals, receptions and ceremonies held in their honor; visit Washington, D.C. area museums and monuments; and forge friendships with their peers from across the country.

Established in 1964 by executive order of the President, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes and honors 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. In 2015, the program further was expanded to recognize student excellence in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

For more information on the Presidential Scholars Program, 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 2019 Presidential Scholars Program:

  • Ondia Logan, Albany High School, Albany City School District
  • Shianne Cooke, Frederick Law Olmsted School, Buffalo City School District
  • David Bruen, Clarkstown South High School, Clarkstown CSD
  • Erika Landayan, North Rockland High School, Haverstraw-Stony Point Central School District
  • Trevor Higgins, Kenmore West High School, Kenmore-Tonawanda UFSD
  • Kira Milgrim, Kingston High School, Kingston City School District
  • Talia Fernandez, Long Beach High School, Long Beach City School District
  • Leonardo Ferrisi, Mamaroneck High School, Mamaroneck UFSD
  • Miranda Szwej, Cicero-North Syracuse High School, North Syracuse Central School District
  • Katie Sierra , Northport High School, Northport-East Northport UFSD
  • Muhammad Ahsan, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, NYC Geographic District #20—Brooklyn
  • Angela Finnerty, High School of Applied Communications, NYC Geographic District #24—Queens
  • Diana Almallah, Grover Cleveland High School, NYC Geographic District #24--Queens
  • Justin Hunsinger, Owego Free Academy, Owego-Apalachin Central School District
  • Mark Hager, Plattsburgh High School, Plattsburgh City School District
  • James Daley, Portville CSD, Portville CSD
  • Austin Bullock, Sauquoit Valley Central High School, Sauquoit Valley Central School District
  • Mia Clark, Shelter Island High School, Shelter Island UFSD
  • King Bunn, Fowler High School, Syracuse City School District
  • Liam Murphy, Webster Thomas High School, Webster Central School District

The Career and Technical Education Nominees for the 2019 Presidential Scholars Program:

  • Monique Martin, Cleveland Hill High School, Cleveland Hill UFSD
  • Samantha Dell Acqua, Guilderland High School, Guilderland Central School District
  • Sara Hargrave, Lindenhurst High School, Lindenhurst UFSD
  • Madelaine Lebetkin, Brooklyn Technical High School, NYC Geographic District #13--Brooklyn
  • Jared Welch, Union-Endicott High School, Union-Endicott Central School District

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

Assemblymember Catherine Nolan: “Congratulations to Diana Almallah of Grover Cleveland High School for her hard work for being selected as a nominee for the presidential scholars program. Thanks to Commissioner Elia and Principal Pascente and Grover Cleveland High School for participating in this wonderful activity.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan: “I am delighted that Katie Sierra from Northport High School has been nominated by Commissioner Elia for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. It was my pleasure to recommend Katie for this program based on her achievements both in and out of the classroom. Her efforts in school, music, martial arts and community service make this recognition well deserved and Katie should be justifiably proud. She is an inspiration to all of her peers and we wish her all the best in the future.”

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick: “I am deeply proud that Commissioner Elia has nominated one of our most respected young local scholars, Madelaine Lebetkin of Brooklyn Technical High School, for the prestigious Presidential Scholars Program. Madelaine has proven to be a studious and well-rounded individual both in our community and at her school. Her outstanding ability to balance her engagements in rigorous programs such as the Advanced Space Academy, an engineering internship at ConEdison, and her involvement in many other notable extracurricular activities are to be commended. I congratulate Madelaine Lebetkin and her family on this esteemed nomination and wish her the best as she continues in the application process.

Assemblymember Donna Lupardo: “Being a Presidential Scholar is among the highest recognition a student can receive and being nominated is an honor itself. I’m proud to have recommended Jared Welch from Union-Endicott High School for the Career and Technical Education program. His accolades both in and out of the classroom speak for themselves: He will graduate as Valedictorian of his class, an academic honor he earned while also participating in varsity athletics, a number of school clubs, and working a part-time job. His hard work and dedication will certainly lead him to success in college and beyond and I congratulate him on his nomination.”

Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre: “It was an honor and a pleasure to recommend Ms. Sara Hargrave of Lindenhurst High School for the Presidential Scholars Program. Ms. Hargrave is an exemplary CTE student and a leader in her community. Her impressive 97.72 weighted average, workload, drive, and dedication to helping others are truly outstanding. I would like to thank Commissioner MaryEllen Elia for nominating Ms. Hargrave for this prestigious award.”

Assemblymember Fred Thiele: “I am thrilled that Commissioner Elia has nominated Ms. Mia Clark, a student at Shelter Island High School, for the 2019 Presidential Scholars Program.  Mia Clark is a motivated and compassionate young woman who excels academically and has made contributions to both her school and our community.  I am honored to represent this fine student in the 1st Assembly District and wish Mia the best of luck as the selection process continues.”

Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli: “I am proud of King Bunn’s accomplishments and success that have led him to be nominated for the Presidential Scholars Program. It is a wonderful honor for him, his family and our community. I wish him the very best.”

Assemblymember Steve Otis: “I am delighted that Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has chosen Leonardo Ferrisi, an exceptional student at Mamaroneck High School, as a nominee from New York State for the Presidential Scholars Program. I was pleased to recommend Leonardo based on his academic achievements, passion for learning and leadership skills he possesses and has utilized in a number of clubs and extracurricular activities. I thank Commissioner Elia for recognizing Leonardo’s dedication and commitment to his studies, community and family and wish him the best as his application moves forward.”

Assemblymember Brian Barnwell: “Angela Finnerty represents the best of our community’s students and is a young leader who continues to put others first. She has already faced incredible personal adversity, which she has not only overcome, but has used such adversity to better the lives of all around her. Angela is a role model to her peers and a true leader, and I look forward to all the great things she will accomplish.”

Assemblymember Al Stirpe: “The Presidential Scholars Program honors the best and the brightest high school seniors that our great nation has to offer. I’m delighted to announce that Miranda Szwejof, a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, has advanced to the next round of the selection process. A Bridgeport native, Miranda excels in the classroom and on the court. She captains the varsity tennis team and the Math League team, and she is a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and National Honor Society. Miranda is also a worship leader in the Inside-Out Youth Group and a teacher in the Children’s Ministry. I was proud to nominate such a gifted and driven student-athlete, and I want to wish Miranda best of luck in the next round!”

Senator Todd Kaminsky: “I could not have been prouder to nominate Long Beach High School’s Talia Fernandez. She is a leader in and out of the classroom and sets a strong example for her peers. Her wealth of accomplishments is proof that hard work and passion for one’s community can make a difference at any age.”

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill: “When invited by State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to recommend a student from our community, I knew Kira Milgrim would be an excellent candidate. Kira has garnered a remarkable list of academic and extracurricular accomplishments throughout her time at Kingston High School.   She wholly exemplifies the qualities of a young leader with promises of a bright future.”

Assemblymember John T. McDonald III: “I sincerely appreciate the nomination of Ondia Logan of Albany High School that was put forth by Commissioner Elia as part of an elite group of women and men for the Presidential Scholars program. This prestigious program recognizes the talent and commitment of these future leaders. Ondia’s dedication to her community and education is respected and this honor, in my opinion, is one of many to follow. Thank you to Commissioner Elia and the Regents for their continued efforts to shine a light on these bright stars throughout New York State.”

Assemblymember Kenneth P. Zebrowski: “I am thrilled that Commissioner Elia has decided to nominate North Rockland’s very own Erika Landayan for the Presidential Scholars Program. Erika is a role model for her peers and strives to not only make her school a better place, but the community at large. I am extremely proud to represent such an impressive and dedicated student. I congratulate her for this prestigious recognition and wish her continued success in the future.”

Senator Catharine M. Young: “It is with great pleasure that I extend my congratulations to Portville Central School student James Daley on his selection as a New York State nominee for the Presidential Scholars Program. James has an academic record that is truly extraordinary, not only placing him at the top of his class but earning him numerous awards in science and STEM-focused competitions. He is also driven to excel outside of the classroom, through participation in athletics, academic clubs and in community activities that make a difference in the lives of others. In every way, James is a role model for his peers and brings pride to his school and community. He has our sincerest wishes for continued success as he moves forward to the next level of this prestigious competition.”

Assemblymember Brian Miller: “I am so pleased that Austin Bullock, a student at Sauquoit Valley Central High School, has been nominated as a Presidential Scholar by the New York State Education Department. This recognition is one of our nation’s highest honors for high school students. I recommended Austin for this award because of his outstanding character and his commitment to his education, his community and his own personal growth. We are so proud that one of our local students is shining bright as an example for other students throughout our region and the state to follow. Congratulations Austin!”

Senator David Carlucci: "It's exciting that Commissioner Elia has selected David Bruen of Clarkstown South High School to be among New York’s nominees for the Presidential Scholars Program. David's commitment to the Clarkstown community is unmatched and his dedication to his studies is commendable. David continues to make his community proud, and I wish him continued success in the future."

Senator Pam Helming: “Webster Thomas High School senior Liam Murphy is an outstanding candidate for the Presidential Scholars Program. He stands out among his peers as a high achiever who excels in the classroom across all different subjects. He is also a leader who inspires those around him to serve their school and community and a hard worker who strives to accomplish his goals and overcome any challenge. It is terrific that Commissioner Elia has nominated Liam for this prestigious honor, and I wish Liam well as the process continues and as he contemplates his future college and career plans.”

Assemblymember Monica Wallace: “I’m thrilled that Commissioner Elia has selected Monique Martin of Cleveland Hill High School to be among New York’s nominees for the Presidential Scholars Program. In addition to having outstanding academic credentials, Monique has been an active member of student clubs and organizations, and she has earned the respect of her peers and educators alike. Monique demonstrates the commitment and values of Western New York and serves as inspiration to her peers, which is why I was proud to recommend her to Commissioner Elia.”

Assemblymember Billy Jones: “I’m pleased to see that the Commissioner has decided to move forward with my nomination for the Presidential Scholarship program, Mark Hager. Throughout his time at Plattsburgh High School, Mark has exemplified all of the tools a student needs to have a successful academic career.  I recommended Mark for this scholarship because I believe that he is an extraordinary student and I wish him the best of luck moving forward in this process.”

Senator Fred Akshar: "I could not be prouder that Commissioner Elia chose to nominate the 52nd Senate District's own Justin Hunsinger for the Presidential Scholars Program. Justin's hard work, dedication and ability to maintain a rigorous schedule that includes excellence in athletics, academics and community service is an outstanding example not only for his peers at Owego Free Academy, but for students across our great state. I thank the Commissioner for recognizing what so many of us see in this young man." 

Senator Simcha Felder: "The Presidential Scholar’s Program is one of our country’s highest honors. Connecting and fostering relationships among our nation’s most distinguished students is an important way to bolster and support their efforts to attain the American dream. I cannot imagine a more worthy nominee than Muhammad Ahsan of FDR High School. His sterling character matches his exceptional scholarship. It is with great pride and joy that we will all watch his rising star."