OHS senior Jeske named Presidential Scholar

Oregon High School senior Phoebe Jeske is one of 161 high school seniors in the country to be named a 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholar.

Oregon High School senior Phoebe Jeske now has a place among the elite high school seniors in the country.

Last week, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced that Jeske was one of 161 seniors in the 57th class of the U.S. Presidential Scholars for their accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields, a Presidential Scholars news release states. U.S. Presidential Scholars include 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. There are also 20 scholars chosen in the arts field, and 20 more in the career and technical education disciplines. Amara Lynn Livingston of Cochrane Fountain City High School (technical education) and Neil Sai Dogra of the University School of Milwaukee were the other two state students honored.

“The 2021 Presidential Scholars represent extraordinary achievements for our extraordinary times,” Cardona said in the release. “Honoring them can remind us all of the great potential in each new generation and renew our commitment to helping them achieve their dreams.”

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects people annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals, the release states. This year, more than 6,000 candidates qualified based on outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by Chief State School Officers, other partner recognition organizations.

OSD principal Jim Pliner called Jeske a “curious and committed student who seeks to challenge herself at every turn.”

“Her teachers recognize her talent, her incredible work ethic and her humility,” he wrote in an email to the Observer. “She is as kind as she is academically gifted. We could not be more proud of Phoebe.”

OHS math teacher Dave Ebert said Jeske was the math team’s top scorer on the American Mathematics Competition and the TrigStar competition, and she received a prestigious AKAMAI award, given to the top high school female mathematicians in the country.

“Phoebe pursues her interests with a passion that is rare among high school students,” he wrote in an email to the Observer. “Working with her and watching her grow and thrive has been a blessing and an honor, and I look forward to seeing everything she accomplishes in her future.”

OHS social studies AP psychology teacher Kyle Oksiuta said Jeske is in the “top tier” of students he’s ever taught, noting that she earned the highest score possible on the AP Psychology exam last year.

“I would estimate her intelligence to be at the 99th percentile of the thousands of kids I’ve taught over my career (but) what makes her especially outstanding is that her personality is just as much of an asset,” he wrote in an email to the Observer. “She’s one of the kindest kids I’ve ever met in my entire life. There’s absolutely no limit on her potential. The phrase ‘one of a kind’ gets thrown around frequently, but it truly does apply to Phoebe.”

In her Presidential Scholarship application, Jeske chose to honor Oksiuta, her junior year AP Psychology teacher.

“Throughout my academic journey, I’ve felt pushed by teachers who saw potential in me, and I couldn’t be happier about that,” she wrote in an email to the Observer. “I see the award as a recognition of my hard work, and I’m immensely grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to grow in my time at OHS.”

Jeske said she was surprised to hear she won the award, which she applied for in January.

“I knew that it was incredibly competitive and I was up against some of the best students in the country,” she said. “I certainly didn’t expect to be named a semi-finalist, much less a finalist.”

Jeske plans to attend Wheaton College in Illinois to study business/economics and computer science. Next year, she plans to take a “gap year” to do a leadership development program.

“Overall, I’m so ecstatic to see what the next four years will bring,” she said.

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.