A Norfolk high school senior was recently named one of 161 seniors from across the nation selected for the 58th Class of U.S. Presidential Scholars.
Ayana Ashanti Askew, Booker T. Washington High School, is one of five Virginia high school seniors recognized for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.
In making the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “Our 2022 Presidential Scholars represent the best of America, and remind us that when empowered by education, there are no limits to what our young people can achieve.
“Today, I join President Biden to celebrate a class of scholars whose pursuit of knowledge, generosity of spirit, and exceptional talents bring our nation tremendous pride. Throughout one of the most trying periods in our nation’s history and amid our recovery from the pandemic, our students have once again demonstrated their strength and that they have so much to contribute to our country. Thanks to them, I know America’s future is bright.”
Ayana Askew is a Norfolk native and the second eldest of four children of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Askew Sr. She has amassed a host of awards and recognition for her writing, poetry and speaking, while maintaining honor status in multiple Advanced Placement classes at Booker T. and the Governor’s School for the Arts on the Theater Track.
In 2018, she served as a House of Delegates Page in Richmond where she gained knowledge of the law-making process. She was awarded an Honorable mention by C-SPAN’s Student-Cam Competition along with her Governor’s School cohort for the documentary “School House Rots.”
She is also a two-time first-place winner of Norfolk’s Southside Speaking Contest. She was also selected as a runner-up for the National August Wilson Competition in New York in 2020. She served as an intern for Clever Communities in Action which promotes literacy in the Black Community.
Active in the NAACP, she has won gold in the NAACP ACT-SO competition in the poetry performance category both locally and nationally.
Of the 3.7 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,000 candidates qualified for the 2022 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations and YoungArts, the National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.
As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education.
Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored over 7,900 of the nation’s top-performing students. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.
The four other Virginia high school scholars are Maya Koenig, Arlington;, Helen J. Dunn, Alexandria; Benjamin Choi, McLean; and Uma Pillai, Sterling.
The Presidential Scholars Class of 2022 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer with an online recognition program.