When Kylie McClanahan, from Maumelle and a recent graduate and the valedictorian from Central Arkansas Christian, got a letter in the mail from U.S. Presidential Scholars program she didn’t quite know what to do.
Having never heard of the program, McClanahan wasn’t sure what the program was or what it was about. She didn’t know the United States Presidential Scholars Program has been in existence since 1964 and was established by Executive Order of the President to honor and recognize the Nation’s most distinguished high school graduates. Expanded in 1979 to identify students who exhibit outstanding talent in the creative, performing and visual arts, 141 students are named U.S. Presidential Scholars each year. The scholars are comprised of one boy and one girl from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in addition to the U.S. families living abroad. Fifteen at-large and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts are also chosen.
“The school got a letter as well, and I showed it to my counselor the next day,” McClanahan said. “I decided to go for it the more it looked like a big deal. The letter was sent to me based on my test scores, and the application was very specific. It was online with a specific format. I got the letter in early January and by the end of February it was finished. “
In addition to test scores, the application was very specific about volunteer activities and wanted the dates for those. McClanahan was at a fundraiser golf tournament for Riley’s Warriors (an organization started by her family in honor of her brother Riley who has disabilities) when her mother called her and told her she had a packet from the Presidential Scholars Program. She left the tournament to open the packet to find out she had been chosen.
“To me the Presidential Scholar means I have the potential to do whatever I want to do,” McClanahan said. “I can do great things and being one of the best and brightest and top 141 in the nation is a great honor.”
Before her senior year, McClanahan spent time in the CAC theater department, mostly as an assistant director. She also has been on several mission trips with her youth group. The daughter of Robert and Michelle and sister to Riley, 14, Kathleen, 16, and Luke, 12, McClanahan will attend the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville on the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship and major in physics and computer science.