Sophia Hall '23 and Maya Lall '23 have been named 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars, one of the highest honors bestowed upon graduating high school seniors.
The U.S. Presidential Scholar Program recognizes 161 outstanding American high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, technical expertise, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community.
Sophia and Maya were selected as two of the initial 628 semifinalists by a distinguished panel of educators from over 5,000 candidates, who were initially selected based on SAT/ACT scores. Semifinalists were selected on the basis of their accomplishments in many areas – academic and artistic success, accomplishment in career and technical fields, leadership, strong character, and involvement in school and the community.
“U.S. Presidential Scholars have always represented the future of our country and the bright promise it holds. I want each of these remarkable students to know: your passion and intellect, pursuit of excellence, and spirit of service are exactly what our country needs,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a news release.
“On behalf of President Biden, I am delighted to join your family, friends, and communities in celebrating your accomplishments. Aim high, share your talents, and continue embracing opportunities to lead as your exciting future unfolds.”
Sophia is a creative force; her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Library of Congress, and several other organizations. She is the 2023 Washington, D.C. Youth Poet Laureate and will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall to study creative writing.
"I’m beyond grateful to have been selected as a Presidential Scholar by an administration that has demonstrated their commitment to poetry through the appointment of both an Inaugural Poet and U.S. Poet Laureate, and their support of the National Commission of the Arts and Humanities," she said. "I hope to use my role as Presidential Scholar in conjunction with my role as DC Youth Poet Laureate to promote joy, literacy, and love of learning among youth in order to encourage future scholars of all backgrounds.
"I would like to say thank you to the Holton-Arms English, History, and Performing Arts Departments which have sparked my love for all things creative and imaginative. Thank you to Writopia Lab, an organization where I have spent countless hours learning, taking writing workshops, volunteering, and engaging with local young writers. Thank you to the people who have taught me poetry, and in turn, taught me the meaning of life itself: Ada Limón, Richard Blanco, Ellen Bass. Thank you to the DC Public Libraries –– their bookshelves nurtured me long before I knew how to read. Thank you to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which pushed me to keep writing. Thank you for 32 regional awards this year alone, and thank you for the National Silver with Distinction Award for my senior writing portfolio, which I will be attending the national ceremony to receive at Carnegie Hall in June. And, of course, thank you to my mom, who helped me grow wings and fly."
Maya is making change in her community. She is the founder of Students Supporting Seniors, an organization dedicated to helping older adults with their technology needs. Born out of the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maya's efforts have expanded to several local retirement homes and garnered a $5,000 scholarship from the MIT AgeLab. She will attend Bowdoin College in the fall to major in biology on a pre-med track.
"I am deeply honored to have been selected as a 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholar. As a Presidential Scholar, I hope to promote a love for volunteering in the community and inspire youth to pursue paths in science," she said. "I would like to thank everyone involved in Students Supporting Seniors, the nonprofit organization I founded in the summer of 2020 to increase access to technology for senior citizens, especially my team that teaches weekly technology classes at retirement homes and (MS/US Clubs and Community Engagement Coordinator Emily) Wilde, our advisor. I am grateful to the MIT AgeLab for awarding me a scholarship in the summer of 2022 to expand our organization and continue reaching senior citizens in need.
"I would also like to thank the Holton-Arms Science and Math Departments for sparking my love for STEM. Thank you to (Upper School Mathematics and Science Teacher Hannah) Krug, my fantastic physics teacher and advisor, and (Upper School Ceramics Teacher Nandini) Giridharadas, my other wonderful advisor. I would like to extend a thank you to Dr. Makarand Paranjape for hosting me as an intern at the Georgetown University Nanoscience and Microtechnology Laboratory. Thank you to (Director of College Counseling Suzanne) Carter and (College Counseling and Academic Support Coordinator Pamela) Wachutka for all of their guidance throughout this process. Lastly, I would like to thank my family and friends for their endless support. I am so excited to meet my fellow Scholars!"
Since 1983, each U.S. Presidential Scholar has been offered the opportunity to name their most influential teacher. Each distinguished teacher is honored with a personal letter from the Secretary of Education. Sophia selected Upper School English Teacher Melinda Salata, and Maya chose Upper School Mathematics and Science Teacher Hannah Krug.
The Presidential Scholars Class of 2023 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer with an online recognition program.