Ryan Park ’19 Attends U.S. Presidential Scholars Ceremony

(The following post was written by Janet Chang ’78 Oshiro, an Academy math faculty member who Punahou’s Ryan Park ’19 selected as his most inspirational teacher. Last month, she accompanied Park and his mother, Mei Park, to Washington D.C. to attend the U.S. Presidential Scholars Ceremony. Park was one of 161 high school seniors in the country – and one of three from Hawai‘i – selected for the high academic and leadership honor.)

By Janet Chang ’78 Oshiro

There are three categories of Scholars: U.S. Presidential Scholars (two from each state), Scholars in the Arts, and Scholars in Career and Technical Education. Representing Hawai‘i were Career and Tech Scholar, Ian Henry Acosta (Waipahu High School), and the U. S. Presidential Scholars: Taylor Venenciano (Iolani School) and our own Ryan Park.

Ryan was housed with all other 2019 Presidential Scholars in the Georgetown University dorms for the two days of festivities, from June 23 through June 25. Through team-building activities, U.S. Capitol tours and typical dormitory food, Ryan cultivated lifetime friendships with the other scholars. Interestingly, Ryan was also able to renew friendships with students he had gotten to know during his time at PROMYS (Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists) in the summer prior to his senior year or at National Science or Math Bowls.

Ryan Park ’19 with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the awards ceremony.

On June 23, students were greeted at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Each student received a gold medallion as a symbol of their achievement. In her welcome speech, DeVos emphasized the diversity of the group of students, her pride at each of their achievements and her encouragement to make this world a better place. After the ceremony, Ryan showed me his medallion. Each students’ name was personally inscribed on one side of their medal.

On Monday, the students met President Donald Trump in the White House for a photo session, and later that evening, enjoyed a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by the 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. This included modern and traditional dance, as well as original and classical music performances.

Ryan was among 10 Korean-American Presidential Scholars invited to a recognition ceremony at the Korean Embassy in Washington D.C.

Students left the dorms on Tuesday morning to join their families who had also traveled to Washington D.C. Ryan’s mother, Mei, was able to travel with him, and we had done some sightseeing prior to and after the festivities, including seeing national monuments and visiting the Smithsonian. The weather was hot, and we logged in 10,000-12,000 steps each day! Prior to returning home, Ryan and 10 other Korean-American Scholars were invited to a recognition ceremony at the Korean Embassy.

It was truly an honor to be able to share this time with Ryan and his family. The atmosphere at the medallion ceremony was charged with the same type of excitement and pride that one feels at a Punahou Commencement. Parents and teachers in attendance were bursting with pride and astonishment at their child’s achievement. The Arts Performers on Sunday night combined outstanding classical and modern performances with levity, beauty, creativity and passion that brought tears to my eyes. 

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