'Iolani’s own, Taylor Venenciano ‘19, has been named the 2019 United States Presidential Scholar for Hawaii. Selected from 5,300 candidates across the nation, Taylor Venenciano ’19 joins 161 other scholars from around the nation. Each year, the U.S. Department of Education chooses one female and one male high school senior from each state based on a number of qualifications, including academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character, and involvement in community and school activities. Venenciano will travel to Washington, D.C. in June to attend the National Recognition Program, where she will receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion and shake hands with President Donald Trump.
Established in 1964 by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Presidential Scholars Program recognizes some of the country’s most distinguished high school seniors based on three paths of accomplishment: academic achievement, artistic achievement, and achievement in education fields.
Scholars are initially selected based on SAT and ACT scores or nomination by the Chief State School Officer. After the initial screening, in which approximately twenty females and twenty males are selected from each state, the candidates must complete an application that included five different writing supplements and a 7,000-character essay.
"The weirdest questions would be, ‘Discuss a creative work that illustrates the way you see the world and the way you see yourself in the world’ and the essay which required me to pick a photograph and explain its significance,” said Venenciano. "Usually I only have to write one essay for scholarships or recognition programs, so this application took about three weeks to complete. It was basically applying for college again.”
Venenciano’s application was reviewed by The Commission on Presidential Scholars, a group of 32 citizens appointed by the President. Venenciano said, "It’s crazy that I was selected, but this honor is truly a testament to all the people in this community and ‘Iolani for providing me with opportunities to excel and grow as a student, person, and a leader.”