4 Shawnee Mission East seniors named Presidential Scholars candidates

From left, Eli Kurlbaum, Eric Blom, Peter Haynes and Yashi Wang.
From left, Eli Kurlbaum, Eric Blom, Peter Haynes and Yashi Wang.

Four Shawnee Mission East seniors got a round of unexpected good news last week.

Eli Kurlbaum, Eric Blom, Peter Haynes and Yashi Wang all found out they had been named candidates for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Kurlbaum, Haynes and Wang all received perfect scores of 36 on the ACT tests they took last year. Blom received a 35.

Wang said the news of being named a Presidential Scholar had come as a total shock.

“I was really surprised because you just get this random email,” she said. “It kind of comes out of nowhere.”

Haynes agreed.

“Honestly, I kind of thought it was a scam [when I got the email],” he said. “It’s different because there’s no application, you don’t apply for it, it just shows up.”

Established in 1964, the program recognizes a small fraction of the nation’s graduating seniors each year for their academic achievements. Only around 2,600 students are named candidates each year. Of those, around 500 will advance to the semifinalist level in April. The fewer than 200 students named Presidential Scholars will be announced in June. SM East has had a number of students named candidates over the years. Then-senior Clara Ma advanced through the stages and was named a Presidential Scholar in 2015.

All four of this year’s candidates are still waiting for responses to some of their college admissions applications. Kurlbaum has applied to Harvard, KU, SMU, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins. Haynes has applied to Stanford, Michigan, Virginia, Minnesota and Oklahoma. Blom has applied to Chicago, Berkeley, Dartmouth, Columbia and Northwestern. Wang has applied to Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Duke and Dartmouth.

One other Shawnee Mission School District student, Cameron Stout of Shawnee Mission West, was named a candidate. Eighteen students in the Blue Valley School District and seven students in the Olathe School District have been named candidates this year.