In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order to create the Presidential Scholars program in order to recognize and honor the most accomplished high school graduates. Now, 48 years later, senior David Wang and junior Norika Matsuyama (who is graduating a year early) have been chosen as semi-finalists for the class of 2012. They are two out of 550 semifinalists who have a chance to make it to the final round, which would bring them to Washington, D.C. in the summer to meet government officials, visit monuments and attend an awards program.
The majority of the scholars are recognized for their academic excellence, along with accomplishments in leadership, citizenship and community service. In addition to these students, twenty additional graduates are selected on the basis of their prestige in the arts. Matsuyama is one of them.
“My artistic talent is ballet. I have been doing ballet since I was two, and it has been my first priority for the most of my life.” said Matsuyama, who practices after school for four to five hours a day.
Matsuyama shares her dance talent at Peninsula, where she is the captain of girl’s choreo.
“Norika’s talent is superb,” choreo coach Kimi Hendrick said. “Her level of skill is beyond most high school students. [The choreo members] all look up to her.”
Through her ballet, Matsuyama hopes to inspire others to fulfill their desires.
“I would like to say that whatever you do, try your hardest, and it will pay off sometime in the future,” said Matsuyama. “Whatever your dream is, never give up and keep working, because that’s the only way you will get better and stronger.”
On the other hand, Wang was selected mostly for his academic achievement. He is a captain of the Academic Decathlon team, a student researcher at UCLA and has also racked up a total of about 250 hours of service when working on his Eagle Scout project.
Wang’s teachers recognize his talents in the classroom.
“[Wang] is a tremendous speaker, teacher and leader,” science teacher Mark Greenberg said.
Wang plans to continue being a prominent leader, regardless of whether he gets chosen as a finalist.
“Hopefully, I can continue this excellence in the future by remaining disciplined in my endeavors and striving for self-improvement each day,” said Wang.