Essex students named Presidential Scholar nominees

Henry Wu (right)

Of the 161 high school seniors selected to the 56th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, only two hail from Vermont--one being from Essex.

Essex High’s Henry Wu earned the honor which goes to seniors for accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.

"I am incredibly honored and humbled to be selected as a Presidential Scholar," said Wu. "It is gratifying to be recognized, along with 160 other scholars, for my hard work in school, extracurriculars, and community service. I would like to thank all of my teachers and mentors, my friends, and my parents for supporting everything that I do."

Annual award winners are selected by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars for their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations, transcripts, evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

“It is my privilege to congratulate the Presidential Scholars Class of 2020 on their outstanding academic achievement, community service, and leadership,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who announced the 2020 scholars on Thursday. “These exemplary young people have excelled inside the classroom and out. And, while they are facing unprecedented challenges as they graduate from high school into a world that looks much different than it did just a few months ago, their determination, resilience, and commitment to excellence will serve them well as they pursue their next steps.”

Wu was one of more than 5,300 candidates who qualified for the 2020 laurel as determined by outstanding performances on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or by nominations made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations, or the National YoungArts Foundation’s national YoungArts competition.

Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program is directed by a Presidential Executive Order and recognizes one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad. There are 15 additional at-large selections, 20 Scholars in the Arts, and 20 Scholars in Career and Technical Education.

Since ‘64, over 7,600 of the nation’s top-performing students have been awarded.

The Presidential Scholars Class of 2020 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer--as public health circumstances permit.

Fellow Vermonter Nisha Shah of South Burlington High School joined Wu in garnering the 2020 distinction. A complete list of 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars is available at

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