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Arslanbekov, Wyche named semifinalists for U.S. Presidential Scholars

MADISON – The U.S. Department of Education recently named Thais R. Arslanbekov, a student at Bob Jones High School, and M. Austen Wyche, who attends James Clemens High School, as semifinalists for the United States Presidential Scholars Program.

These Madison students’ achievement ranks statewide across 137 public school districts and private schools.

Established in 1964 by the president’s executive order, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes and honors some of the nation’s most distinguished, graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program broadened to include students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts.

In 2015, the program again extended to honor students who demonstrate ability in career and technical education. Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.

In fall 2022, Arslanbekov earned first place in the von Braun Symposium for research concerning “Electrical and thermochemical analysis of polyvinyl alcohol and hydroxylammonium nitrate combustion mechanism.” She has earned many awards for work in science, Scholars Bowl, mathematics and poetry.

For Wyche, being recognized as a semifinalist is “a culmination of hard work over the last four years of high school. While this includes academics, I have prioritized community engagement, impact and advocacy in my community, state and nation.”

“This is an amazing honor, and I hope it sends the message to all young people in the state of Alabama that they can achieve anything and make an impact on the world around them,” Wyche said. “All students — no matter their race or background — should continue their journey to become a changemaker and make an impact in their world around them.”

This fall, Wyche will attend Harvard University. “As I start my freshman year, this award will benefit me by providing a strong alumni network to create connections, strengthen collaboration with my peers and explore the diverse set of passions other scholars will pursue throughout their academics and career,” Wyche said.

“In my college education, I will utilize these connections to challenge my beliefs, strengthen my global perspective and continue my advocacy journey in Massachusetts,” Wyche said.

Wyche thanked his parents for their continued support and guidance. “They have taught me the importance of education, how to challenge belief processes and emphasized exposing myself to people of different backgrounds, beliefs and creeds,” he said.

“I would also like to thank my amazing teachers at James Clemens High School who have believed in me and helped prepare me for the next steps in my academic career,” Wyche said.

For more information about the U.S. Presidential Scholars program, visit www2.ed.gov/programs/psp/index.html.

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