Students from two Johnson County high schools have received one of the highest academic honors in the country.
Bessie Bauman of Olathe Northwest High School and Hannah Motley of Blue Valley North High School have been named 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars. Both Bauman and Motley will travel to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony on June 18 where they will each receive a Presidential Scholar Medallion.
Each year, 161 students are chosen for this high academic honor. One female and one male student are selected from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and from U.S. families living abroad.
Additionally, 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education and 15 at-large Presidential Scholars are also selected for the award.
Despite her strong academic record, Bauman said she was genuinely surprised when she found out she was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar.
“I jumped and screamed and I went to tell my mom,” Bauman said. “And my mom is Deaf and uses American Sign Language. I went to see her and she was so excited for me.”
Hard work and a dedication to her studies have paved the way for Bauman’s selection as a U.S. Presidential Scholar. Her impressive academic accomplishments include a 5.0 weighted GPA and a score of 1400 on her SAT.
She’s juggled a tough load of advanced classes with a busy extracurricular schedule that includes debate and forensics and her term this year as student council president.
Bauman was accepted to Yale University. She’ll head to New Haven, Conn., in the fall where she plans on majoring in economics. She’s considering law school in the future.
But Bauman has had to overcome a lot of adversity on her road to academic success. Her father died of cancer while she was a freshman in high school. She credits the love and support of her family in helping her to stay focused on her goals even through her heartbreak.
“Once my father passed away, I struggled with grief and school became difficult for me,” Bauman said. “But my mom and younger sister were always there for me through the trying times.”
She said her father has also been instrumental in all of her accomplishments.
“My dad was a huge inspiration for me to work this hard,” Bauman said. “He would have wanted me to reach my potential.”
A focus on academics certainly played an important role in Blue Valley North’s Hannah Motley being named a Presidential Scholar this year. Motley scored a near-perfect 35 on her ACT and boasts a weighted GPA of 4.573.
But it’s Motley’s dedication to community service that really singled her out for this award. Motley regularly volunteers her time with the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, the Girls Leadership Program and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser, among other organizations.
For Motley, giving back to the community is something that has always been a part of her life.
“I think in my home life, my parents instilled in us that when you are fortunate to have the things we do, it’s important to take care of people that don’t,” Motley said.
After graduation, Motley will head to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she plans to major in global studies with a concentration in international politics. She received the prestigious Morehead Cain Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship, which was established by a University of North Carolina graduate.
Motley said she is really looking forward to meeting the other honorees during her trip to D.C.
“I think getting to meet other scholars is going to be one of the highlights,” Motley said. “I know they are kids that have done really exceptional things.”
Motley said she’s humbled to be included among such an accomplished group of students.
“It’s an amazing honor and opportunity to have that validation,” Motley said. “You work hard and do your best because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s nice to be recognized once in a while.”