Five non-resident Indian kids have been selected to be the 2008 Presidential Scholars, the US government's highest honour for high school seniors.
Ravi N Sankar, Ishna A Sharma, Mythili K Iyer, Ruchir F Shah and Anisha Gulabani were selected along with 134 other outstanding high school seniors.
Ravi is from Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Florida; Ishna from Roswell High School, Roswell, New Mexico; Mythili from Lawrenceville School, Kendall Park, New Jersey; Ruchir from Barrington High School, Barrington, Rhode Island, New York; and Anisha from Eastlake High School, Sammamish, Washington.
Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, announced the selected students, picked for outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship and service to their schools and communities, will be honoured in a ceremony in Washington, DC, later this month.
Of the 3 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 3,000 qualified to be Presidential Scholars, based on their performance on the College Board Scholastic Aptitude Test and ACT exams, or by nomination through the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts' nationwide young ARTS competition.
The 139 Presidential Scholars include a young man and a young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from families of United States citizens living abroad. They also include 15 students chosen at large and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
A 29-member Commission on Presidential Scholars appointed by President George W Bush selected the scholars based on their academic success, artistic excellence, community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.
Ravi noted that the program picks only few students from across the country.
"The award also makes me eligible for an expense-paid trip to China, which I hope to qualify for. I am looking forward to meeting the other honourees later this month," he said.
Mythili was excited about going for the Presidential Scholars weekend.
"The things that we get to do -- meeting influential people, visiting culturally significant sites, and spending time with like-minded, motivated students -- sound amazing. And, of course, I am excited to go to the White House!"
She thanked her parents 'first and foremost for helping me in so many ways -- driving to school, to activities, to concerts, even to the movies and other fun places. They never put too much pressure on me, but they were always supportive.
"I also have to thank," Mythili continued, "the teacher that I cited as the teacher who most influenced me (as part of the application process). Her name is Tonhu Hoang, and she was my French teacher in the 7th and 8th grades. I continue to stay in contact with her and she has helped me in so many ways to become a better, well-rounded person."
Ruchir felt, "It is truly an amazing honour and I look forward to meeting with President Bush. The fact that so many Indians have won this award demonstrates how influential and intelligent the Indian community in the United States has become."
Ravi is an Advanced Placement Scholar with distinction and a National Merit finalist. He has won the Call to Service Award from President Bush for creating free SAT and math tutoring courses in the Orlando area.
He had perfect scores on 11 AP exams in subjects from Latin to computer science, and completed an advanced university calculus course as a high school sophomore. A captain of his school's Lincoln-Douglas debate team, he is a nationally ranked debater and National Forensics League Academic All-American. He hopes to attend Stanford University.
"High school has been a great experience for me overall, and this prestigious honour is the icing on the cake," said Ishna, who came to the US from Australia at the age of 3.
"I can't wait to actually meet the President of the United States of America!"
Ishna is the founder and president of her school's American Red Cross chapter, and a member of the National Honour Society, National Spanish Honour Society, Beta Club, Math Team, Habitat for Humanity, and Peer Tutor clubs.
A pianist and violinist, she has served her school orchestra as librarian and concert mistress. She won first place in her district and third place in the state for music composition. She has practised martial arts for 10 years, and has a brown belt. She is a hospital volunteer and a national park volunteer at the Chattahoochee State Park.
Ishna aspires to work with Doctors without Borders some day, and plans to attend the University of Miami Honors Program in Medicine.
Mythili has held numerous leadership positions, including Model United Nations co-president, senior staff writer of the school newspaper, director of the Peer Tutoring Program, Collegium Orchestra Windmaster and librarian, vice president of the Masala Club, and English as a Second Language and flute teacher.
Her other activities have included the Science Olympiad, Periwig (Drama) Club, and Indian dance. She has written for Explore Magazine, and plans to study biomedical engineering at Princeton.
Ruchir, who has served as state president and public relations chair of the Future Business Leaders of America, operates a business, focused on the production and distribution of historical comic books to schools at the elementary and secondary level.
His other roles and activities have included serving as president of the Interact Club, member of the National Honour Society and the tennis team, and tutoring at the Providence Public Library. He plans to attend Harvard in the fall.
Anisha, a National Merit finalist, has held leadership positions at school including Oratory NFL co-captain, Gender Equity Club founder and president, and Children's Hospital Guild Treasurer.
A violinist, pianist, and black diamond skier, she is also exhibit assistant at the Pacific Science Centre, and participated in the Stanford Debate Camp and Bioquest Academy at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute.