Return to Headlines

Narayanan Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

State College Area High School senior Prithvi NarayananState College Area High School senior Prithvi Narayanan now can claim one of the nation’s most prestigious student accolades, but he believes it honors more than a single individual.


On May 9, 2024, Narayanan learned that the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars had chosen him to be a 2024 U.S. Presidential Scholar, just one of 161 seniors selected for outstanding scholastic and artistic achievement, citizenship, service, and contributions to their schools and communities. Classmate Lydia Shen was a semifinalist.


Narayanan, one of two Pennsylvania representatives, is the eighth Presidential Scholar from State High and the first since Joey Feffer in 2017. 


“I was shocked,” Narayanan said. “I wasn’t expecting it by any means because of how selective this process is in the first place. I felt like it was a moment where I could say this is a tangible product of all the efforts that have gone on over so many years, and not just mine, but all the people who have been so involved and committed to supporting me, mentoring me, giving me resources, and constantly pushing me, telling me not to give up on my dreams. That’s everyone in my community: my parents, my younger sister, my neighbors, my teachers, my peers, the (State High) administrators, my figure skating coach, my music teachers. It really takes a whole town to support students, and I think, more than about me, this is a testament to who we are as a State College community and the effort we put into place to uplift every student.”


One teacher in particular got a special shout-out. Since 1983, scholars have been able to name their most influential teacher, who receives a personal letter from the U.S. Secretary of Education. Narayanan chose Julie Jobe at Radio Park Elementary School.


In 1964, a Presidential Executive Order established the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished high school seniors. This year, one male student and one female student were picked from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as from families of U.S. citizens living abroad.


Also selected were 15 students at-large, 20 students for exceptional talent in the visual and performing arts, and 20 students for their ability in career and technical education fields. 


Of the 3.7 million seniors expected to graduate this year, more than 5,700 candidates qualified for the 2024 awards based on outstanding performances on College Board SAT or ACT exams, or through nominations by chief state school officers, partner recognition organizations, and YoungArts, the National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists. Candidates then submitted essays, school evaluations and transcripts that demonstrated academic, artistic, or technical education success, as well as a commitment to community service and leadership. 


“There is no question that Prithvi is a star, but it should also be said that he’s a lot of fun to work with,”  State High gifted support/learning enrichment teacher Jennifer Rand said. “Whether he’s engaging in equity work, designing a German pop culture class, or practicing his ice skating forms, he’s all in. As a student, he is driven to engage in highly intellectual work and has taken full advantage of every opportunity available to him — just as he’s created many of his own. I am confident that he’ll go far.” 


Narayanan, a figure skater, geography bee competitor, Indian classical music artist and former student representative to the State College Borough, will attend Yale University to study political science. He aspires to bring people together and help preserve and strengthen American democracy as a model for the world.


“I look back and see the trajectory I’ve taken,” he said. “I may not have taken it if it were just up to me, but it was because of the people around me, who told me that, ‘These are paths you can take. These are visions, dreams, that you have and might independently think you’re not capable of, but because we’re here for you, we can help you make them possible.’ ”


By Chris Rosenblum

Photo by Nabil K. Mark

Published May 10, 2024