When U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the 59th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars on Wednesday, May 10, Wilton High School senior Lukas Koutsoukos was one of the only 161 high school seniors in the country recognized for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields. Koutsoukos was one of two Connecticut students recognized for 2023.

After graduating from WHS in June, Koutsoukos will attend Yale University, where he plans to study political science and classics, and will possibly attend law school after that.

Gov. Ned Lamont issued a press release on Wednesday congratulating Koutsoukos and the other Presidential Scholar from Connecticut, Ambika Grover, from Greenwich High School.

“I am so proud of Ambika and Lukas on being named U.S. Presidential Scholars and receiving this extraordinary national recognition in acknowledgment of everything they’ve achieved in their academic careers,” Lamont said. “They represent some of the very best of Connecticut, and I applaud their perseverance and drive. Connecticut is home to some of the best schools in the nation, and that is due in large part to the incredible teachers and faculty we have in our state who dedicate themselves to providing our students with the highest-quality education possible.”

By Presidential Executive Order, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.

The Commission selects one male and one female as Presidential Scholars from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education. 

Of the 3.7 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,000 candidates qualified for the 2023 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations and YoungArts, the National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists.

In each state, scores are ranked from high to low. The scores associated with the top 20 male examinees and top 20 female examinees are used to select candidates from each state. A universal score is determined for both males and females from that state. In addition, each Chief State School Officer (CSSO) may nominate up to 10 male and 10 female candidates, based on their outstanding scholarship, residing in the CSSO’s jurisdiction.

Application is by invitation only; students may not apply individually to the program, nor may their schools nominate them.

A review committee of qualified individuals experienced in secondary and post-secondary education evaluates candidates on their academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities, and an analysis of their essay. Approximately 650 candidates are named semifinalists and forwarded to the Commission for further review. All Arts nominees submitting candidacy materials are automatically advanced to the semifinalist stage.

In April, the Commission on Presidential Scholars reviews the applications of all semifinalists based on the same criteria used by the review committee. The Commission selects up to 161 U.S Presidential Scholars each year. All scholars are honored for their accomplishments during the online National Recognition Program.

U.S Presidential Scholars are awarded the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion in June.

Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored over 8,000 of the nation’s top-performing students. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

The Presidential Scholars Class of 2023 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer with an online recognition program.

A complete list of 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars is available online.

Editor’s note: The story was updated after publication to include a quote from Gov. Ned Lamont.

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