MILLVILLE — Theo Sherman said he thought he was being scammed when he received a letter in the mail in January announcing he was selected as a candidate for the Presidential Scholar Award.
Although he is second in his class at Millville High School, scored a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs and is hoping to enroll at Cornell University in the fall to study aerospace engineering, Sherman said he and his family took a few days to research the honor before they believed it.
“It blew my mind. I never thought I would achieve something like this,” he said Thursday.
Sherman, 18, was one of six local teens selected among 4,200 high school seniors nationwide to be a candidate for the award from the U.S. Department of Education. The Presidential Scholar Awards are announced in May, and only 160 students nationwide are selected.
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Other local students selected are Ronald Canlla and Divya Rajput, of Absegami High School in Galloway Township; Bradley Ferguson, of Mainland Regional High School in Linwood; Aidan Himley, of Egg Harbor Township High School; and Samantha McBurrows, of Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Newfield.
“Being nominated for the Presidential Scholar Award is a distinct honor. Aidan is an exceptional young man who pursues academic interests both in and out of the classroom. Our school community is proud of his recognition and looks forward to seeing the many great contributions he will make in the future,” Egg Harbor Township Principal Terry Charlton said of his school’s nominee.
Mainland Regional guidance counselor Maureen Wixson said she nominated Ferguson for the award because of his academic success and community service.
“Of any of the students I’ve had, he’s had more community service and a true passion for that than I’ve seen in a long time,” Wixson said. “He is an outstanding student.”
The candidates are chosen from the nearly 3.6 million high school seniors graduating this year and can be nominated because of high SAT or ACT scores, by a state’s chief state school officer or one of the Department of Education’s partner recognition organizations.
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Established in 1964 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the program recognizes the nation’s most distinguished graduating seniors for academic, leadership and service accomplishments, and includes components for arts and career and technical education.
Sherman doesn’t know who nominated him, but he is extremely proud and so are Millville administrators. Millville Superintendent David Gentile said he was ecstatic for both Sherman and the district.
“I couldn’t be prouder of Theo for this recognition because it gives other people a chance to recognize him as well as see the quality of education that’s available at Millville,” Gentile said. “Beyond that, we already knew he was awesome. It’s no secret to us when you look at the type of things that he’s been able to accomplish.”
Gentile said Sherman was well-rounded and active in music and marching band, swimming and community service, and also had a part-time job.
“This is the kind of kid you hope your kid turns out to be,” Gentile said.
Millville Senior High School Principal Stephanie DeRose said the recognition for a student from Millville was special because it is not a wealthy district.
“You hear so much about some of our more affluent districts having success such as this, so to have one of our students who’s worked so hard and still maintained their own being and good character throughout the process and to be recognized is really, truly an honor,” she said.
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Sherman said his mother, Cynthia Commander, who is an art teacher in the district, was not surprised by his nomination.
“My mom was like, ‘Of course you got this,’” he said.
The students selected as 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars will receive a Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House during the National Recognition Program in Washington, D.C., and will attend a series of events held in their honor.