Senior named one of five U.S. Presidential Scholar nominees

Whittier senior Emily Shal is one of five Massachusetts students chosen as a U.S. Presidential Scholar nominee in the career and technical education component. 

Established in 1964 by an executive order of President Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 2015, the program expanded to include students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

Each year, CTE schools nominate up to five candidates for consideration, who are evaluated on their academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities, and essay submission.

"I was super surprised to learn that I was nominated because there are tons of great high school students out there that achieve so much," Shal said. "I didn't realize that I'm one of those students."

In October, guidance director Kristine Morrison nominated Shal, a health occupations student from Amesbury, for the award, describing her as determined, hardworking and intelligent.

"Just to be nominated by Whittier is an honor," Shal added. "This in itself is such a huge achievement.”

This year, Shal was elected class president, and as an athlete, she serves as captain for both track and field -- a title she earned as a junior. On and off the field, she is a role model for her teammates, especially for her younger peers.

As a health occupations student, Shal has obtained several certifications and grown her work experience over her high school career. She is a licensed certified nursing assistant, certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and will earn her EMT certification in January.

Shal is also an inducted member of the National Technical Honor Society and dedicates her spare time to SkillsUSA. Last year, her team won a gold medal at the state competition and a bronze at the national level for their impressive project Music and Memory, which helps those suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. 

"Emily's personal growth comes by way of the obstacles that she has overcome," Morrison wrote in her nomination, referencing Shal's determination to educate her peers about other cultures, as her family immigrated from Russia. "This has lent to the mature, kind, compassionate young woman she has become."

In March, 60 CTE semifinalists will be chosen by an independent, national committee of educators convened by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Then, in April, the Commission on Presidential Scholars selects up to 20 CTE Presidential Scholars.

Whittier Tech