Abigail Yu, 2017 US Presidential Scholar

Yu Named Presidential Scholar

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Thursday May 18, 2017

Abigail Yu is one of 161 exceptional American high school seniors named a 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students. The acclaimed recognition is given in honor of a student who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community. Yu, who is soon to graduate from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, said, “While it is a nice acknowledgment of my hard work, I believe the honor truly goes to my family and friends, my teachers and classmates, and my neighborhood and community, including South Burlington, for teaching me passion, creativity, and grit.”

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. Of the 3.5 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,100 candidates qualified for the 2017 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by chief state school officers and other partner recognition organizations.

Since 1983, each U.S. Presidential Scholar has been offered the opportunity to name his or her most influential teacher. Each distinguished teacher is honored with a personal letter from the Secretary of Education. The teacher chosen for recognition by Yu was Matthew Miller of Phillips Exeter Academy. Yu credits Miller for teaching her to think in multidimensional ways. She says, “He showed me that writing is more than just words on a page; there is movement, sound, and texture to everything we read.”

Yu reports that attending Phillips Exeter Academy has been “incredibly impactful.” She notes two components in particular that were significant to her education, “the discussion-based Harkness learning system that molded and stretched the way I developed critical thinking,” and “the diverse student body that introduced me to new cultural worlds.”

Yu’s future plans include attending Williams College this fall. She currently is interning on Capitol Hill for New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan. She says, “It is sort of a ‘tryout’ to see how much I enjoy working in government and policy, and, so far, I’ve been enjoying it a lot.”

Yu grew up in South Burlington and says that the city has provided her a great perspective. “It has made me very appreciative of all of the wonderful opportunities that come my way. It has also been integral in my ability to develop deep and meaningful relationships with the people around me. After graduation, the young scholar will be returning to her hometown briefly before going to China to visit family.

But first, Yu will be attending the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar ceremony June 18 in Washington D.C. where she will receive a Presidential Scholar Medallion. It will be her fourth time visiting the capitol and on her agenda, a tour of the White House.