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AHS student named Presidential Scholar

Was already one of two local semifinalists for prestigious honor

An Ashland High School student has been recognized by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars as the top female graduating senior in the state of Oregon and is one of 161 high school seniors nationwide to be named a U.S. Presidential Scholar.

Already one of 625 national semifinalists, Ashland High’s Kaitlyn Kim was notified by email Thursday morning that she was one of two students in Oregon to earn a spot in the exclusive club: the 57th class of Presidential Scholar honorees. The email included a letter signed by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona which read in part: “You study hard, challenge yourself every day, exude a love for learning, and give back to your community. These qualities are exceptional; even more so given the challenges faced during the global pandemic.”

Presidential Scholars are selected from a group of highly accomplished semifinalists based on their scholastic achievement, artistic excellence, career preparation, demonstrated leadership ability, community service, strong character and commitment to high ideals. Usually, Presidential Scholars are honored during a national ceremony in Washington D.C., but that’s been called off this year due to COVID-19, and a plan for “online recognition” is still in the works. Kim will also receive a special medallion.

Kim and South Medford High’s Yosalin Arenas both were named Presidential Scholar semifinalists in April. They were two of eight Oregonians selected as semifinalists and the only students on Oregon’s list south of Corvallis.

Kim has a 4.3 GPA, scored 1,580 on her SAT, including a perfect 800 on the biology portion, is a National Merit Scholar, a National AP Scholar with Distinction and was one of 42 recipients nationally of the Lota Sigma Pi Outstanding Young Women in Chemistry award.

Kim also has a long list of leadership distinctions — she’s a lieutenant governor of the Pacific Northwest District Key Club International, serves as president of the National Honor Society, Model United Nations and International Club, and is working remotely as the youngest research assistant in Dr. Marie-Abele Bind’s environmental biostatistics lab at Harvard University to study the epigenetics of Alzheimer’s disease using statistical programming tools.

Kim plans to attend Oregon State University Honors College in the fall and double major in biochemistry and biophysics in the College of Science, and management in the College of Business. She will also be a member of the Corvallis-OSU Symphony Orchestra as a violinist during her undergraduate years and aspires to become either a neurosurgeon or neurological research lab director to “embrace my academic interest in neurobiology with my personal interest in improving the lives of others.”

Arenas, who has received a Presidential Scholarship from Oregon State University and carries a 4.0 GPA, serves as an Oregon state board student advisor, and in that role worked as a student representative on Oregon's Healthy Schools Reopening Council. She's also part of the Racial Justice Committee, attending meetings that include Gov. Kate Brown. Locally, Arenas has been an advocate for students during the gradual reopening of schools as South Medford High School's student body president.

Kaitlyn Kim
Yosalin Arenas