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West Fargo students Peterson, Ellenson earn Presidential Scholar honors

Two West Fargo High School students recently were named semifinalists in the 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, and one was chosen as a finalist.

Nate Peterson, Horace, and Courtney Ellenson, West Fargo, were honored as semifinalists in a pool of approximately 560 students in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. During the selection process, Ellenson was chosen as the North Dakota female recipient of the award. She is the first West Fargo High School recipient in the history of the program, and will be recognized for her achievement during a West Fargo School Board meeting June 27, at the Leidal Education Center.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.

The semifinalists were selected from more than 3,000 prospective candidates on the basis of superior achievements, leadership qualities, personal character, and involvement in community and school activities.

Final selection of the scholars was made by the Commission on Presidential Scholars, a group of eminent citizens appointed by the President. The Commission selected one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. students living abroad; up to 20 students representing the visual, literary and performing arts; as well as 15 students at-large.

Ellenson as well as other Scholars will be invited to Washington, D.C., for several days in the second half of June to receive the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a recognition ceremony and to participate in various activities and event held in their honor.

The 560 semifinalists in the program's academic component initially were selected as candidates for the exceptional performance on either the SAT or Act. For the arts component, 60 additional semifinalists were nominated by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, which annually conducts a competitive, national talent search of more than 6,500 young artists in a wide range of disciplines.

Semifinalists were chosen by a panel of distinguished educators after a review of students' essays, self-assessments, a description of activities, school recommendations, and school transcripts.

North Dakota's male Scholar recipient was Austin Battles, of Oak Grove Lutheran High School.