Ben Hu (12) named Presidential Scholar

John Mauro and Adrian Arnaboldi

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Ben Hu (12) was honored with the Presidential Scholar award along with 161 other students in the United States. This award is given to high school seniors with strong academics, an intriguing application, and top standardized test scores in their state, according to the U.S Department of Education Website. 

Hu is the first student from the school to win the award since Rachel Ha ‘13, Hu said. He will be traveling to Washington D.C. in June to meet the President, First Lady, and Secretary of Education to receive the award, he said.

Out of 3.6 million high school seniors, 6,000 students were nominated by the nomination committee, Hu said. “After the nomination, the government will notify you to send in an application, and then again if you become a semi-finalist, or a finalist,” he said.

The application was as intricate as Hu’s college application, and it required Kaitlin Howrigan, Hu’s college counselor, to write a lengthy report about him, he said.

The application asked for Hu’s transcript, his standardized test scores, four short answer questions, and one long essay along with a photograph of something of great significance to him, he said.

“I included a picture of me with a bunch of fifth graders holding origami cranes,” Hu said. “It was important to me because it combined my interests of origami and education.”

Because of the length of the application and the time it would take to complete it, initially, Hu did not want to apply. However, after doing some research about the award, and meeting with his counselor, he realized how amazing the opportunity was and changed his mind, he said.

“It was a lot of work and it definitely interfered with my school work.” Hu said. “I eventually finished it, but it was very close to the deadline.”

Hu was exhilarated when he won the award, he said. “I was very surprised, because I thought I had no chance at winning.”

“I’m very appreciative of the government for giving me this award,” Hu said. “Because the primary basis of my application was about education, it makes me feel extremely validated for my work.”

Academics aside, Hu is also a leader, talented origami maker, and good friend, Brigette Kon (11) said.

Hu’s involvement in the community, his dedication during the college process, and his thoughtful organization skills have made him an exceptional student in the school community,” Howrigan said.

Charles Garcia, who was Hu’s math teacher and pick for Distinguished Teacher, was impressed that Hu was able to write an application while dealing with school work, college applications, and varsity sports, Garcia said.

“He has worked tirelessly his whole high school career, while being one of the most sincere people in the whole school,” he said.

“As a leader, he’s really approachable,” Euwan Kim (11) said. “He makes everyone around him comfortable because he doesn’t just say what he wants to, he listens, suggests, and builds on my ideas,” she said.

Garcia has various underclassmen students that adore and look up to Ben for guidance, Garcia said.

“Ben exudes positive and friendly energy,” Lorenzo Hess (12) said. “People look up to him both academically and as a leader on the water polo and swim teams.”

“Personally, I don’t think of myself as that big of a leader. I think I’m just someone who’s active in the community, like most people who love their community,” Hu said.

Hu is the co-President for the school’s Saturday Morning Tutoring Program, where students at the school tutor young kids from the Bronx. Outside of school, Hu works as a teacher’s assistant at a Chinese school in the area spreading his love of language and culture, Howrigan said.

Garcia was speechless when Hu picked him to be Distinguished Teacher, he said. “I know that Ben has had a lot of important influences and amazing teachers, so it meant the world to me when he picked me,” he said. “It’s oane of the best memories I’ll have as a teacher.”

“My family and the community around me have been very supportive of me,” Hu said. “I couldn’t have done it without my family and friends,” he said.