Possibly the first, North Dakota’s U.S. Presidential Scholars selected both from the Grand Forks district – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – Two Grand Forks students have been selected to receive one of the highest honors that honors the nation’s most distinguished high school students.

Hanson Du, who attends Grand Forks Central High School, and Selena Wu, a student at Red River High School, have been named North Dakota’s U.S. Presidential Scholars.

Each year, two students from each state are selected for the honor, which recognizes outstanding academic achievement. Students may also be selected for the program’s categories in vocational education, technical education and the arts.

The selection of two honorees in the Grand Forks district in the same year hasn’t happened in 11 years — and probably never, according to federal data.

“To have both students in North Dakota come from the Grand Forks Public Schools is unprecedented and, to my knowledge, unprecedented within our school district,” said Eric Ripley, executive director of career and technical education and technology for GFPS. .

Wu and Du are among 121 students in the country to receive the Presidential Scholar Award, he said. In addition, 20 students are mentioned in the vocational and technical education category and 20 in the arts category. Teagan Erbele, a senior at Napoleon (North Dakota) High School, was selected as a Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education.

Members of the Class of ’24, Wu and Du will attend Harvard University this fall. Du plans to study economics; Wu will focus on biomedical technology.

The Presidential Scholar award “rewards me for my overall efforts in high school,” Wu said. She was very involved in robotics, played the violin in the school orchestra and participated in athletics, among other things.

She was impressed that the award carried the message that the recipients “represent the future of all high school students,” she said, “and that our generation will be the ones to change society next.”

Being selected as a Presidential Scholar “is definitely a very great honor,” Du said. “I’m very grateful to have it. It is something that encourages me to continue to strive for excellence.”

Du’s brother, Dennis, was a 2021 Presidential Scholar during his senior year at Grand Forks Central High School. Dennis Du goes to Harvard, where he studies computer science.

Hanson Du was influenced by his older brother, he said. “I always looked up to him a bit.”

He calls his brother “a role model,” he said, and “my parents encouraged me.” … I am grateful to all the people who helped me get to this point.”

Both Wu and Du were influenced and encouraged by their parents and teachers, they said. They have participated in advanced and CTE course options, co-curricular and extracurricular activities and school leadership opportunities, Ripley said.

Wu credits science teacher Joseph Ostgarden, her VEX Robotics and Advanced Placement Chemistry teacher, as an important mentor during her high school years.

Among numerous achievements, Wu was named the 2023 RRHS Distinguished Student, president of the VEX Robotics Clubs and co-captain of the Science Olympiad, and earned multiple first-place, individual and team awards in the UND Math Track Meet and in Science Olympiad. She is a three-time state champion in VEX Robotics and a state champion in the Health Occupations Students of America competition, Skills-USA and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

Wu has served on her school’s Leadership Council and has been active with Girls Who Code, Science Bowl and the Northern Valley Youth Orchestra.

The first girl to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout in Grand Forks, Wu is a member of Scouts BSA Troop 130G. For her community project, she designed and created a nature trail north of the campground in East Grand Forks.

She sets her sights on a career as a doctor.

“Medicine has always interested me,” said Wu, the daughter of two doctors, “and my parents encouraged it.” Her father is a psychiatrist at Altru Health System. Her mother died six years ago, at age 43, of cancer, she said, “which is ironic because she was an oncologist. I think of all the lives she could have saved. I would like to follow in her footsteps.”

She has not yet chosen a specific specialty.

“Lately I’ve been really interested in cardiology,” she said, but “I’m only 18. My interests may change.”

Du is a member of Baesler’s Superintendent’s Student Cabinet, a group of 25 students from across North Dakota that meets regularly and provides the superintendent with advice and suggestions on ways to improve the state’s education system.

He was also encouraged and supported by his teachers, including Trevor Lennon and Megan Sullivan, who taught business education classes, he said. His interest in business was sparked by advisors from his school’s FBLA club.

Du, who has served as vice president of Grand Forks Central’s student body, has also served as chapter president of the school’s FBLA and state vice president for the North Dakota FBLA, and is a member of the National Secretary’s Council for National FBLA. He earned distinctions as an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Scholar semifinalist and state champion in FBLA, State Tennis, Science Bowl and Scholastic Chess.

He was selected to the All-State Choir and earned a perfect score of 36 on the ACT exam, Ripley said.

Du has also been active in the community; For example, he has volunteered as a coach for the Grand Forks Public Library’s chess club, he said.

“I actually work with a lot of people, mostly kids, but sometimes even adults, and that’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “Additionally, the FBLA also places quite a heavy emphasis on community service.”

“It is a fantastic honor for a school district to have two Presidential Scholars in the same year, and it is a remarkable achievement that two students from the same community have earned one of the most prestigious national honors a high school student can have. Baesler said.

Terry Brenner, Superintendent of Grand Forks Public Schools, said, “The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program is highly competitive. … Students like Selena and Hanson are recognized for their exceptional academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service and contributions to school and community.”

“Our entire school district is extremely proud of them,” Brenner said.

“The fact that two students from the same school district were elected in the same year suggests that our school district has exceptional educational resources and a strong culture of academic and co-curricular excellence,” he said. “It is a remarkable achievement to be named a U.S. Presidential Scholar. This bestowed and prestigious honor is a testament to the motivation, determination and drive of Selena and Hanson, along with the support of their families.”

Other students from the region have also been named Presidential Scholars in the past. Last year, Kaylee Kirkeby, a student at Grand Forks Central, was named a Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education.

In 2021, Ellen Gregoire received the honor as a senior at Larimore Public School in Larimore, North Dakota. In 2017, Evan Welsh was named a Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education as a senior at Grand Forks Central.

In 2003, Stephanie Brockman, Grand Forks Red River, was named a Presidential Scholar.

As of 2003, Fargo is the only other school district in North Dakota to have two students named as Presidential Scholars in a given year – 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2013.

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