Deaf student honored as one of the U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2019

[Transcript] Megan Clements, a deaf senior at Rigby High School in Idaho, was selected as one of the finalists for the United States Presidential Scholar award. This is one of the highest honors that a high school student can receive. She will be one of the 161 selected students across the nation who will visit the White House on June 23rd.

The Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 to recognize and honor some of our country’s distinguished graduating high school seniors. The Presidential Scholars Program is a recognition program, no scholarship is given. Students who are chosen will have a free trip to Washington, D.C., presented a medallion at a ceremony by the White House, and get to meet important people, including the President. Applications are by invitation only. The student has to send in five essays, a letter of recommendation, their transcript, and SAT/ACT scores.

Clements, a 4.0 GPA student, is also the first person to be selected from her district. She is this year’s class valedictorian. She was the first person to create an American Sign Language club at Rigby High School.

The Daily Moth reached out to her for an interview.

(Interview begins)

MEGAN CLEMENTS: Well, the essay prompt said that I had to pick something that was of significance about myself. I’d have to pick a feature and explain my pick. This was a very vague question, right?

Not that simple, so I picked pole vaulting. Pole vaulting (PV). I really enjoyed trying to figure out how this could be connected. I eventually thought of this comparative essay between pole vaulting and living with my deafness.

I tried to show that in pole vaulting, if you just see a person holding the pole and they’re trying to run with the pole. It looks awkward and slow when they’re trying to run. It seems that the pole is really difficult to carry, and it looks kinda silly while you’re doing it, right? But if you take a step back and look at the full picture, the pole is not the problem. It’s meant to help them jump much higher than they would without the pole. With the pole, you can go to great heights. I compared that to my deafness and how people’s first reaction is sympathy, you know? Like it’s so hard and it feels really bad, but really helped me learn and understand who I am as a person. So I compared these two.

MEGAN CLEMENTS: I first got an email then they sent me a letter. That’s when it became real.

RENCA: An official letter, right. And how did you feel when you got that email and letter? What did that make you feel?

MEGAN CLEMENTS: I felt…I got really excited and…at first, I opened the email and I read it. It said, “Thank you for submitting your application…”, my first thought was, “Aw nooo!”

MEGAN CLEMENTS: I didn’t get it. I was being rejected; you know?!

RENCA: Yes and that’s the first sentence you see, gosh!

MEGAN CLEMENTS: Denied! Then it said, “Congratulations!” What, congratulations?! Then I read the rest of the letter. “Oh!”. It seems I spoke too soon. It was really funny.

RENCA: You must’ve been excited.

MEGAN CLEMENTS: Yeah and I told my mom. She was so excited, and she was saying that she couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Ah I see, thanks mom!”

But no, it’s all good. We were really excited, and I told…well, I just told my family. My mom and dad and they were really excited.

RENCA: So cool. So, you’re visiting Washington, D.C. next week. I’m curious about how you feel about meeting President Donald Trump. You’re meeting him, right? How do you feel about that?

MEGAN CLEMENTS: I feel…pretty excited. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I was going to actually meet the president himself or, like, would I just go into the White House and take a look around? But now, I know I’ll be meeting him in person so I’m pretty excited. I think it’ll be fun, you know, taking a picture with him and everything, right? But I’m really excited to meet the other students too. Just meeting them and seeing who they are. Yeah, it’s really... I’m able to bring my interpreter from high school, my own interpreter.

RENCA: Oh, how nice!

MEGAN CLEMENTS: That’s really nice! I’d already know this person that’s interpreting for me. We understand each other’s signing styles.

RENCA: I’m just curious about your plans following graduation. What are your plans moving forward?

MEGAN CLEMENTS: Well, the current plan is I will start school at Utah State University in Fall 2019. This fall, in August I think, and I want to major in Biology. And I want to focus on genetics.

RENCA: Cool!

MEGAN CLEMENTS: It’s pretty cool. So, I’m starting this fall and after I get my Bachelor’s degree, I want to become a Physician’s Assistant (PA). So, I think after 6-7 years total of school, I’ll start with my work, I guess.

[End interview]

In 2013, Colin Lualdi from The Learning Center in Massachusetts, was honored as one of the 141 senior finalists for the U.S. Presidential Scholar Program.

In an article written by the Idaho State Journal, Clements’ principal Bryan Lords mentioned that she is a go-getter and a hard worker, and that’s what he loves about her.

To our knowledge, Clements is the 2nd deaf person to receive this award. Congratulations to you and The Daily Moth wishes you the best for your future endeavors.

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