YoungArts Winners Named U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts To Be Celebrated in Event Directed by Choreographer John Heginbotham

performance in honor of u.s. presidential scholars in the arts

2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts Performance (Photo Theresa Wood)

Path to High Honor Starts with Application to YoungArts; Opens June 4, 2019

Multidisciplinary Public Performance Directed by Acclaimed Choreographer
John Heginbotham and Exhibition Will Take Place at the
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on June 24, 2019

Alumni Events June 21 – 23 Celebrates 55 Years of U.S. Presidential Scholars Program
and 40 Years of U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, with Speakers
Including Astrophysicist Dr. Jane Rigby, artist Jean Shin, and U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson

(Miami, FL) – The National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) congratulates the 55th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, with special acknowledgement to the 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts who are YoungArts winners. The U.S. Presidential Scholars award—one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic excellence—is presented on behalf of the President of the United States and honors up to 161 graduating high school seniors of high potential each year. The U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts (full list below) were nominated by YoungArts to The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and selected based on academic and artistic excellence, leadership qualities and community service. For students who would like to be considered for this outstanding honor in the future, the YoungArts application opens on June 4, 2019 at

“I want to congratulate this year’s class of Presidential Scholars on their achievement both inside of the classroom and out,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “Their hard work and commitment to excellence, no matter what challenge they are tackling, will serve them well throughout their lifelong learning journeys. I have no doubt that many of tomorrow’s leaders are among this year’s class of Scholars.”

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program and the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. In honor of the anniversaries, a three-day celebration of the Scholars’ Alumni community featuring a special public symposium will be held in Washington, D.C., in June just before the public performance and exhibition by current winners. The 2019 Presidential Scholars Foundation Celebration will also be held in June to honor three Presidential Scholar Alumni—dancer Desmond Richardson (1986 YoungArts Winner in Dance & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), climate scientist Dr. Richard Alley (1976 U.S. Presidential Scholar) and hematologist Dr. Katherine High (1968 U.S. Presidential Scholar) with the Roosevelt Thompson Award—and philanthropist Lin Arison, founder of YoungArts, with the Dr. Felice Kaufmann Award from the Presidential Scholars Foundation and Alumni Association.

2018 u.s. presidential scholars in the arts performance

2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts Event (Photo Theresa Wood)

Sarah Arison, chair of the National YoungArts Foundation Board of Trustees, said, “Every year YoungArts is grateful for the singular honor of nominating our winners to become U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. This year, the 40th anniversary of the award is especially meaningful to me because my grandmother, Lin Arison, who founded YoungArts to encourage emerging talents, is also being recognized. We congratulate all of the winners and look forward to continuing to offer our support throughout their artistic journeys.”

National Recognition Program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

From June 23-25, the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts will join the other 141 U.S. Presidential Scholars from across the country in Washington, D.C., for the annual National Recognition Program, during which all Scholars receive a Presidential Medallion presented on behalf of the President of the United States. On June 24, the Arts Scholars will present their work to the public at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through a special performance, “A Salute to the 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars,” at 8 p.m. in Concert Hall. The free multidisciplinary performance will celebrate all of this year’s awardees and will be directed by award-winning choreographer, performer and YoungArts master teacher John Heginbotham. Starting that evening, an exhibition of works created by the recognized photographers, visual artists and writers will also be on view in the Hall of Nations until July 6.

“It is a sincere joy to work with the young artists of this program. What is so clear from meeting them, listening to them, and collaborating with them is that they truly are strong voices guiding us all into the future of the American arts,” said John Heginbotham. “My heartfelt thanks to the National YoungArts Foundation, the Commission on Presidential Scholars, and the U.S. Department of Education for their support of these accomplished and inspiring individuals. For there to be productive, interesting, vibrant growth in any direction, we as the receivers of art need to be moved from the inside. These artists have taken on the beautiful, challenging and worthy responsibility of inviting us to be moved. I’m so honored to be a part of celebrating and acknowledging them and their achievements.”

Alumni Anniversary Symposium

From June 21-23, a special anniversary symposium for 1964 – 2018 Scholars and friends, “New Perspectives for Our Times: The Transformative Power of Artists,” will feature presentations by Presidential Scholars from the last five decades, including keynote speaker Jane R. Rigby (1996 U.S. Presidential Scholar), a civil servant astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Kim Barker (1988 U.S. Presidential Scholar), a reporter on the investigations team at The New York Times; Rachel S. Moore, Los Angeles Music Center President (1982 Winner in Dance & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts); U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson (1971 U.S. Presidential Scholar); artists Lee Heinemann (2011 YoungArts Winner in Visual Arts & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), Jean Shin (1990 YoungArts Winner in Visual Arts & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), and Nadia Wolff (2016 YoungArts Winner in Design Arts and Visual Arts & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts); and more. The symposium will offer participants the opportunity to network and learn from like-minded individuals. For more information, visit

Becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts

The first step to becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts is to apply to the National YoungArts Foundation’s annual competition. Applicants must be between the ages of 15–18 or in high school grades 10–12. To be further considered for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar by the organization, applicants must be high school seniors and meet all of the U.S. Presidential Scholars requirements.

YoungArts winners demonstrating excellence in the visual, literary, design or performing arts are selected annually through a blind adjudication process. This year, YoungArts received approximately 8,000 applications and, from this pool, 710 YoungArts winners were selected. In January, approximately 163 Finalists from across the nation were invited to National YoungArts Week in Miami, where they participated in intensive master classes and workshops with internationally renowned artists and shared their work through public performances, readings, exhibitions and screenings.

During National YoungArts Week, eligible participants are further evaluated, award levels are determined, and nominations are made for that year’s U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts candidates. After a rigorous selection process, YoungArts nominates 60 candidates for an invitation to apply to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Finally, the Commission on Presidential Scholars selects 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts each year.

The 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts are:

Nina Ahmadi
Miami, FL
Design & Architecture Senior High School
2019, Visual Arts

Njari Anderson
West Palm Beach, FL
Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts
2019, Visual Arts

Anthony Choi
New York, NY
High School for Math, Science, and Engineering at City College of New York
2018, Classical Music

Vivian DeRosa
Ocean Township, NJ
Communications High School of Monmouth County
2019, Writing

Alaman Diadhiou
Los Angeles, CA
Brentwood School
2016, Dance

Mercedes Ferreira-Dias
Hialeah, FL
Mater Lakes Academy
2019, Voice

Luke Herzog
Pacific Grove, CA
Pacific Grove High School
2018, Writing

Cassandra James
Kissimmee, FL
James Home School
2019, Writing

Isaiah Kim
Nether Providence Township, PA
Strath Haven High School
2019, Classical Music

Charles Kogen
Los Angeles, CA
Harvard-Westlake School
2019, Voice

Annette Lee
Pasadena, CA
Polytechnic School
2018, Classical Music

Anne Liu
San Diego, CA
Canyon Crest Academy
2018, Classical Music

Amber Magnuson
Greenville, SC
South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts & Humanities
2017, Writing

Kevan McClaflin
Birmingham, AL
Alabama School of Fine Arts
2019, Visual Arts

Madelin Morales
Fairfield, NJ
West Essex Senior High School
2019, Voice

Sophie Paquette
Bloomington, IN
Interlochen Arts Academy
2019, Writing

Isha Parupudi
Friendswood, TX
Clear Springs High School
2019, Dance

Kyle Smith
Dallas, TX
St. Mark’s School of Texas
2019, Photography

Emma Sutherland
Dallas, TX
Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts
2019, Dance

Cynthia Zhou
San Jose, CA
Leland High School
2018, Design Arts

For more information, visit
To watch a brief video about YoungArts, click here.


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