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Young Alaskans named 2013 US Presidential Scholars

Alaska Dispatch

Two Alaskans have been awarded the nation’s highest academic honor for secondary school students, joining 139 other kids from across the country as 2013 U.S. Presidential Scholars.

Since the inception of the program in 1964, the Department of Education has selected one boy and one girl from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and from American students living overseas, to receive the award for academic and civic achievement.

Representing Alaska this year are Annaleah Ernst, of Nikiski Junior/Senior High school, and Aidan Bobbitt, of Unalaska High School.

Ernst and Bobbitt were chosen from more than 3,300 students nationwide who qualified based on their SAT or ACT scores. 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.

The program also recognizes 20 students from across the nation in recognition of artistic achievement, and 15 at-large, but none were chosen from Alaska.

Each honoree gets to recognize the teacher who had the most influence on their academic or arts education. Ernst chose Laura Niemczyk, a language arts teacher at Nikiski Junior/Senior High School. Bobbitt picked John Conwell, Superintendent of the Unalaska School District.

As part of the award, both Ernst and Bobbitt will get an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., during National Recognition weekend, June 15-18. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will present the students with their awards.

"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 announcing this year's winners. "I'm honored to celebrate their creativity, hard work, and community service, and I encourage them -- and all students -- to continue to showcase the capacity for greatness in our nation's young people."