SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School valedictorian Alex Poret has been named a semifinalist in the U. S. Presidential Scholars program.  She is one of only 630 other graduating seniors from across the country to receive this recognition.

"The Spartan family is extremely proud of Alex," principal Janet Ferraro said. "We all congratulate her on this wonderful achievement." 

Poret is a self advocate who found out about the opportunity by chance.  She was looking up a friend she had met while participating in the Liberty Science Center Partners in Science program.  Poret found the friend had been nominated for the U. S. Presidential Scholars through the arts program.

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“While I was looking at that a PDF [file] popped up with the application,” Poret said.  She learned that each year every school district superintendent is invited to nominate a boy and a girl who meet the qualifications.

Knowing she met the qualifications she asked Sparta Superintendent Michael Rossi to nominate her.

Poret’s academic career is taking her on a path to the sciences.  Her schedule is as full as possible with high level science classes.  Outside the classroom she participates on the Robotics team, in the Biodiesel club, Women in Science and the Science League.

“If there is a science club I’m probably part of it,” Poret said.

Sparta’s science classes do not follow the same curricular schedule as the test based Science League competitions.  “We do not typically do well but it is still a good experience,” Poret said.

She has not yet decided between MIT and Rutgers Honors College.  “It’s purely a money decision now,” Poret said.  “We will decide by next week.”

Poret said she was inspired to concentrate her studies in science, when as an eighth grade student her friend’s brother got cancer. 

“I read about it and decided this interested me,” Poret said.  Initially thinking her field would be pediatric oncology, she did an internship in the field and decided it was not for her.  Instead, she would rather be in the research side of science, she said.

When she got involved in robotics she decided she would find a way to combine her affinity for science with her interest in robots.  She intends to study Biological Engineering.  She says she is most interested in the “ignored field of microbiomes.” 

“It is a burgeoning field and I am excited for college because of the chance to study it,” Poret said.

It’s not all science for this young lady.  After the robotics season ended in the winter she turned her attention to the newly formed rowing club, though “water temperature issues and snow” have kept them off the lake until last week.

She is also a violist.  Poret is co-first chair in the philharmonic orchestra, plays in the chamber orchestra and with strings club in Sparta High School.  She also plays in the Sussex Symphony. 

Poret tutors high school and middle school students as part of her service to the National Honor Society. 
“Anyone who would like to be tutored can reach out to [Danielle] Kopp, the advisor to the honor society,” Poret said.

The applications for the scholars program are initially screened by the Commissioner of Education in the state.  From there 10 boys and 10 girls can be nominated.  Each year approximately 4,500 students are nominated according to program information. 

"There are less than two dozen Presidential Scholar Semifinalists in the entire state of New Jersey," Rossi said. "That puts Alexandra in a rare category.  This is the result of hard work, determination and talent.  Alexandra makes us all very proud."

A group of up to “32 eminent citizens appointed by the President will select the finalists,” according to a published information about the program.  The initiative was established in 1964 to recognize some of the countries most distinguished graduating seniors for their accomplishments in many areas including: academic success, leadership and service to school and community.

In 1979 the program was expanded to include recognition for students demonstrating exceptional scholarship and talent in the visual, creative and performing arts.  In 2015 it was expanded again to include students with demonstrated ability and accomplishment in career and technical fields, “another way to say science” Poret said.  

Approximately 20 students are selected as finalists for each of the three fields. 

While the U. S. Presidential Scholar does not come with any money, “it is a well known program and it does open the door to other scholarship opportunities,” Poret said.

Should she make it to the next level, a finalist, she will get another trip to the White House.  Yes, she has been there before. 

A few years ago Poret was invited to the White House as part of President Obama’s Kid Science Advisors, where she actually got to meet the president.  She said it would be great to go again.