U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced the selection of Jorge Ledesma, a senior at Westfield High School, as a 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholar.
Ledesma is one of 141 outstanding American high school seniors that have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community. Ledesma will be honored for his accomplishments in Washington D.C., June 21-23. The 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
“Presidential Scholars demonstrate the accomplishments that can be made when students challenge themselves, set the highest standards, and commit themselves to excellence,” Duncan said. In a letter to Ledesma, Duncan wrote, “As you accept this recognition for your accomplishments, I call on you to remember the importance of serving your community and your nation with what you learn.”
Ledesma has been recognized by the Westfield Public School district for many accomplishments. He has earned perfect scores in Math, Reading, Writing, Physics, and Math 2 on the SAT, which is widely used for admission criteria to colleges. Since entering Westfield High School, he has taken 11 Advanced Placement classes. He is a National Merit scholarship finalist; has won several Merck Science awards for achievement in Biology and Physics; and has been recognized by one of the most prestigious writing institutions in the country – The Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards – as one of the “top young writers in the country.” He is a member of the award winning Model UN and Youth and Government (YAM) clubs. Most recently he served as one of seven elected officers from Westfield High School at YAM, and was selected to participate in the Council for National Affairs in North Carolina this summer.
Ledesma volunteers at the Children’s Specialized Hospital as a mentor, and describes his advocacy for disabled rights as his biggest passion. His school counselor, Jacqueline Gagliardo, has remarked that Jorge is successful in every discipline. She describes him as a scientist, a politician, a math scholar, and a writer. His writing extends to local media, where he is assigned as a reporter.
Jorge hopes to become a Supreme Court Justice with an aim to write about the underrepresented, “the strangely beautiful,” as he puts it. He will be attending Harvard University in the fall, where he will pursue a major in Government/Political Science and Philosophy, with minors in Creative Writing and Economics.
“We wish Jorge continued success in all his endeavors. He is a remarkable and compassionate student,” stated Superintendent of the Westfield Public Schools, Margaret Dolan.
Since 1983, each Presidential Scholar has been offered the opportunity to name his or her most influential teacher. Each distinguished teacher is honored with a personal letter from the Secretary of Education. The teacher chosen for recognition by Ledesma was Valentino Scipioni, Physics teacher at Westfield High School.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Obama, 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. Of the three million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 4,300 candidates qualified for the 2015 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide.
Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored almost 7,000 of the nation’s top-performing students with the prestigious award given to honorees during tire annual ceremony in D.C. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts.
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