“It is my privilege to submit these fine students to represent New York as Presidential Scholar candidates,” Rosa said. “Each has shown excellence in their pursuits in school and has made their mark in their community, building on their education through service to others.”
Established in 1964 by executive order of President Lyndon Johnson, the program recognizes some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors based on several criteria, including academic success, artistic excellence, and evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrates commitment to high ideals. Each year, up to 161 students are selected, after making it through two rounds of evaluation—first by a review committee, and then by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. In June, those chosen are bestowed an official U.S. Presidential Scholar medallion recognizing their success and honored in an online ceremony.
This is a notable first for the District. Saugerties High School (SHS) Principal Timothy Reid has been asked by New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey to nominate a candidate for this recognition twice before, but Sekhon is the first to progress as far as he has. After reviewing a multitude of nominations from the high schools in her District, Hinchey chose Sekhon as her official nominee to send to Commissioner Rosa for review.
“It was my pleasure to nominate Saugerties High School student Shaan Sekhon for the 2023 Presidential Scholars Program,” Hinchey said. “Shaan has distinguished himself as an intelligent, well-rounded, and highly regarded young leader among his peers.”
For Reid, Sekhon was the perfect choice. “Shaan exemplifies the values that are synonymous with the Saugerties community. Hard work, leadership, volunteering, service, and kindness are all accurate descriptors of this young man,” he said.
Sekhon first became involved in school activities as a junior high school student, and has continued to pursue leadership and community service roles ever since. As part of the Key Club at the High School, he volunteers at numerous events within the community, including the annual Garlic Festival, and both school and town sporting events. He is also active with the Backpack Program, which provides families in need with free groceries for weekends and school breaks.
“Service is an important part of my life, so I have sought out certain organizations to participate in,” Sekhon said. “I believe that people can access their full potential, and I want to help them reach it.”
When Sekhon graduates this spring, he will leave a positive impact on both his current and future classmates. After a rigorous election process—which involved completing an application, putting together a video to present to the class indicating how he would change the school, and answering questions about his platform from fellow classmates—Shaan was named Class President. “Shaan won with hardwork and a history of commitment to our school,” said Reid. “He also is deeply respected by his classmates.”
But perhaps the most influential aspect of Sekhon’s legacy is the work he did with Principal Reid’s Building Leadership Team, which he has been a part of since its inception in 2021. This important initiative aims to raise graduation rates, increase attendance, improve student morale, and encourage more students to participate as stakeholders in their education, explained Reid. Sekhon was one of the team’s most dedicated members, he added.
“Shaan has collaborated with students, teachers, parents and administrators to craft goals and action steps to improve the quality of education here at Saugerties High School,” said Reid. “He has been instrumental in the growth of our school and continues to leave his mark on both the school and community.”
In addition, Sekhon and the team tackled improving curriculum and adding to the amount of student class offerings, an idea which Sekhon said was very important to him. “This resonated with me because it increases opportunity for all, and I know that if I had more options to pick from when I made my class schedules, I may have chosen differently. So, I wanted to help provide the opportunity for future students,” he said.
After graduation, Sekhon plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in engineering and business, and then a master’s degree in either nuclear or aerospace engineering. His ultimate goal is to fuse both fields of study into a career that will benefit the larger community.
“I come from a family of farmers and businesspeople, and recognize the role the business community plays in uplifting and supporting their local towns and villages. I hope to build a business that can create jobs and service the community I live in,” he said.