Early on, Hueyjong Shih made an impression on Angelique Bosse, the magnet research coordinator and a teacher in the Science, Math and Computer Science Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.
“He has the greatest sense of curiosity,” Bosse said. “He’s very personable and talented not just academically, but musically and athletically.”
The pair will be among those honored during a White House ceremony on June 22 after Shih was selected as one of two 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Maryland and 141 nationwide. He is also among the program’s 50th class.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects students annually based on their academic prowess, artistic excellence, community service and leadership. About 4,000 students were given a chance — based on their test scores on the SAT and ACT — to submit essays, school evaluations, letters of recommendation and transcripts. The commission narrowed down the field to semifinalists and then finalists.
The award is one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Aanchal Johri, also of Blair High, was one of 11 Presidential Scholar semifinalists from Maryland this year. Tianhao Gao from Marriotts Ridge High in Marriottsville was the other winner from Maryland.
Shih, a senior in the Blair program who lives in North Potomac, credits the Blair magnet program with helping him achieve academic and other success.
“The teachers are great. The curriculum here goes above and beyond to challenge us,” said Shih, sitting in a computer science classroom on the third floor of Blair. “That has helped me advance as much as I have.”
Shih scored the highest possible “superscore” of 2400 on the SAT exam. He has more than 800 hours of community service as a summer-camp counselor and other roles. He completed a summer research internship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda.
Shih was also on the varsity tennis team at Blair and is an accomplished violinist. He has played in the National Association for Music Education All National High School Honors Orchestra and MCPS Senior Honors Orchestra.
He started playing the violin at age 5.
“My mother took me to a lot of activities when I was young,” Shih said. “I really got into concerts and wanted to learn the violin.”
The magnet program at Blair has about 400 students among the total student body of more than 2,800. A good portion of the students commute from other areas of the county, Bosse said.
The commute is not too bad for Shih, although he has to get up early to catch a 6:15 a.m. bus. Shih, who attended Cabin John Middle School, has been in the program since his freshman year.
“It’s been really worthwhile being in this program,” he said.
Shih plans to attend Yale University this fall. The Presidential Scholar program does not come with a scholarship, though he also won a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship.
Shih has time to choose a major, and he is considering biology, biochemistry and finance.
Students can invite a teacher to the White House ceremony to also be recognized, and Shih chose Bosse, who has taught at Blair for more than two decades. Neither has been in such a ceremony at the nation’s most recognized residence, and it will be Shih’s first time to visit the White House.
Bosse said she wasn’t particularly surprised that Shih would win the Presidential Scholar honor.
“I’m glad he’s being recognized for everything he has done,” she said.