Big honors for big accomplishments
Chugiak High School student Sijo Smith was selected as a 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholar.
And the teacher chosen for U.S. Presidential Scholar Distinguished Teacher recognition by Smith is Chugiak High School choir teacher Ron Lange.
The 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. Smith’s 2014 Presidential Scholar partner in Alaska is Sawyer Birnbaum of West High School.
Initial nominees are determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide YoungArts competition.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects the scholars to be honored based upon academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.
Smith, who graduated this past week, was valedictorian of her class. She has been accepted by Stanford University, and plans to study bio-chemistry and to involve herself in brain research.
Smith was previous recipient of two national summer science research fellowships. She has also worked as an on-call necropsy assistant for Eagle River based wildlife veterinary pathologist Dr. Kathy Burek.
“Dr. Burek was involved in the first ever brain scan of a baby orca,” Smith noted.
Smith stated that although she has experienced a number of outstanding teachers at Chugiak High School, her four years in Lange’s choirs that have “balanced my heavy academic load at school and fed my creative side.”
Last year Smith completed an ASD Gifted Mentorship in choir conducting with Lange, and this year she has been his student director.
“This (Presidential Scholar recognition) is my personal highlight of my teaching career,” Lange said.
Lange has been a music educator for 34 years, the last 20 years in the Anchorage School District, where he has received a number of teaching awards.
Under Lange’s direction the Chugiak High School Choirs have performed across the U.S. and in Canada, Europe, and China. Chugiak has won numerous prestigious awards at choral festivals and competitions and has been featured at several music educator conferences.