U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced Kahuku High & Intermediate School senior Vaeanui Peck as one of three Hawai‘i scholars in the 59th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. (The other two scholars are enrolled in Hawai‘i private schools.) This year’s class recognized a total of 161 high school seniors nationwide for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.
Vaeanui was selected as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education — a category that only honors up to 20 students. A total of nine Hawai‘i students, which included five Hawai‘i public school seniors, were selected as semifinalists.
“We are so proud to have Vaeanui representing the state of Hawai‘i for the prestigious U.S. Presidential Scholars Program — one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students,” Hawai‘i State Department of Education Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. “It's always validating to see our Hawai‘i public school students recognized for their outstanding achievements and for our schools to be elevated on a national scale. The entire HIDOE celebrates Vaeanui, her family and Kahuku High & Intermediate on this well-deserved and prestigious achievement.”
"We are very proud of Vaeanui,” added Kahuku High & Intermediate School Principal Donna Lindsey. “This is a tremendous honor for Kahuku High & Intermediate School and the Castle-Kahuku Complex Area. Vaeanui has already accomplished so much and we look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish in the future.”
Vaeanui is ranked first in her class with a 4.145 GPA and will be graduating as a valedictorian with academic, STEM Capstone, National Honor Society and CTE honors. She is a participant of the Windward Community College Early College Program and has accumulated 26 college credits toward an associate’s degree. Vaeanui is also involved in her school’s CTE club, hydroponics program, and has participated in track and field and cross country.
A strong advocate of sustainability, Vaeanui has been serving as an agricultural engineering intern at Kualoa Ranch this past school year where she’s built a vertical saltwater hydroponic system for sea asparagus — the first of its kind. After graduating, Vaeanui will be attending Yale University where she will be pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering and a certificate in Renewable Energy Systems. She hopes to become an engineer focusing on promoting renewable energy to help developing nations move toward sustainable energy sources.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.
Of the 3.7 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,000 candidates qualified for the 2023 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations and YoungArts, the National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists.
As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2023 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 U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education.
Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored over 8,000 of the nation’s top-performing students. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.
The Presidential Scholars Class of 2023 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer with an online recognition program.
A complete list of 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars is available at http://www.ed.gov/psp.