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More of Nebraska’s top test scorers are NOW choosing the new Presidential Scholars Program

    Nebraska Education Commissioner Gov. Jim Pillen, a representative of the ACT testing company and interim NU President Chris Kabourek, front, from left, honored 23 of the 28 graduating seniors for their top performances on the ACT during their high school careers.  June 10, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)
Nebraska Education Commissioner Gov. Jim Pillen, a representative of the ACT testing company and interim NU President Chris Kabourek, front, from left, honored 23 of the 28 graduating seniors for their top performances on the ACT during their high school careers. June 10, 2024. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Zach Wendling

Nebraska Examiner

LINCOLN – Four months after a new full-ride scholarship and stipend was launched to attract the top-performing Nebraska scientists, more and more of them are choosing the University of Nebraska.

Interim NU President Chris Kabourek, Governor Jim Pillen and the NU Board of Regents launched the Presidential Scholars Program in February, offering a scholarship for the full cost of attendance plus a $5,000 annual stipend for students to pursue a NU campus if they have a perfect ACT score, or the equivalent on the SAT (1570 or higher).

On Monday, Kabourek Education Commissioner Brian Maher, Pillen, Nebraska, and a representative from the ACT celebrated the top 28 ACT performers at the Nebraska State Capitol.

“I pray that all your dreams come true… and that they bring you back to Nebraska,” Pillen told the students.

Melissa Lee, a spokesperson for NU, said fewer than nine students with a perfect ACT or equivalent SAT score chose NU last year. The number “roughly doubled” for an initial cohort of 16 students in the fall. Of those, fourteen plan to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and two plan to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

One student, Joshua Corrado of Twentynine Palms High School in California, qualified for residency in Nebraska because his parents are Nebraskans on military assignment. Shrey Agarwal, from Lincoln East High School, will also be part of the inaugural cohort for his SAT score.

“When we started this, we said, ‘Hey, if we can just change the life of one Nebraska kid, it will all be worth it,’” Kabourek told the Nebraska Examiner.

Kabourek told the students that the door will be open for them to become a President’s Scholar in the future with the same benefits if their first choice out of high school was not the right choice.

“Just like in athletics and the transfer portal, call us,” Kabourek continued.

Kabourek has joined the regents and Pillen, himself a former regent, in meeting with top students across the state in the same way coaches visit “five-star athletes,” the interim president said. The goal is to meet more students in the future and grow the future cohort, such as students from Nebraska who score a 33 or higher on the ACT.

“Everyone has a dream, they are such incredibly smart kids, and I know they will achieve it,” Kabourek said. “Whether they become the next great farmer or rancher, or come up with a cure for cancer, that’s what it’s all about. We are just very grateful and proud.”

Other students honored Monday chose Johns Hopkins, Texas A&M, Purdue, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California-Berkeley.

This year’s graduates with a top score on the ACT are:

  1. Ruby Barger (Elkhorn Southern High School).
  2. Mark Bausch (Creighton Preparatory School).
  3. Charles Bork (Elkhorn North High School).
  4. Joseph Conner (Daniel J Gross Catholic High School).
  5. Josef Crenshaw (Creighton Preparatory School).
  6. Logan Doorlag (Papillion-La Vista South High School).
  7. Rachel Fernandes (Duchesne Academy).
  8. Jack Goltl (Creighton Preparatory School).
  9. Ruby Gutzmann (Blair High School).
  10. Caleb Kelly (Pender Public School).
  11. Logan Kieckhafer (Elkhorn High School).
  12. Lillias McKillip (Lincoln Southeast High School).
  13. Thomas McMullen (Millard West High School).
  14. Lucas Menard (Creighton Preparatory School).
  15. Advika Namasyvayam (Millard North High School).
  16. Kashif Nazmul (Elkhorn High School).
  17. Elias Parsonage (Westside High School).
  18. Lucy Rawlinson (Central High School).
  19. Katherin Richards (McCook Senior High School).
  20. Jeremy Robson (Millard West High School).
  21. Andrew Rogers (Creighton Preparatory School).
  22. Ethan Roth (Bennington High School).
  23. Gunnar Santelman (Elkhorn Southern High School).
  24. Nayan Vel (Millard North High School).
  25. Caeden Vetro (Millard North High School).
  26. Rachel Wu (Elkhorn South High School).
  27. Rohan Yalamanchili (Millard North High School).
  28. Rocco Zimmerman (Mount Michael High School).
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