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Pictured from left: JM PLTW teacher Gavin Hartle, Zara Zervos and JM head Principal Cassie Porter.
Pictured from left: JM PLTW teacher Gavin Hartle, Zara Zervos and JM head Principal Cassie Porter.

John Marshall High School senior Zara Zervos has been selected as a candidate for the prestigious United States Presidential Scholars Program. While the list of contenders from across the nation is lengthy, Zara is one of 14 students in the country and the only student in West Virginia to be chosen as a nominee for U.S. Presidential Scholar and U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career & Technical Education (CTE).

Established in 1964 by Executive Order of the President, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes and honors distinguished graduating high school seniors. Although students are automatically eligible for nomination during their senior year of high school, each must qualify in one of the three paths to be considered. Zara was nominated, by JM’s Project Lead the Way teacher Gavin Hartle, in two categories based on her SAT score and her overall academic achievements along with her CTE accomplishments at JMHS. Students can also be picked because of their artistic abilities.

Zara has excelled in the classroom while consistently filling her schedule with AP, honors and CTE courses. She currently has a 4.57 GPA. Zara scored a 1490 on her SAT, a score that places her in the 99th percentile. She has challenged herself and worked with time management to balance her social life, community service and academic responsibilities. Zara is well-rounded and often a leader for her peers in tutoring, support and social events. She will complete high school with more than 37 college credits.

Zara has excelled throughout her high school CTE career. She has shown exceptional ability with all of the programs that she has had the opportunity to learn including Autodesk Inventor, robotC and Autodesk Revit. Her ability to creatively visualize solutions to the problems that she is presented, and then to utilize the requisite technology to bring that vision to reality, is inspiring. Zara has also completed Carnegie STEM Camp in their mobile Fab Lab to work with tinkering and creative design.  

In her Civil Engineering course, Zara worked on a project to design Tiny Houses using CAD, Autodesk and Revit. Now, in her Engineering Design and Development course, she is working with consumer engineering in her re-design of condiment bottles. Her interest in engineering and design comingled with her athletic ability when she pursued a project for AP Research that determined how track designs influence the speed of runners. This project presentation and her demonstration of academic research through the scientific method earned her a Capstone Certificate for the AP course. Because she had such powerful experiences in her PLTW and CTE coursework, Zara has volunteered regularly in the elementary school to support PLTW and STEM instruction.  

All CTE students must be endorsed by their Chief State School Officer. Zervos was recommended by Clayton Burch, West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools, for the national accolade. The nomination, however, is just the first step in the program’s process.

Nominees go through a lengthy application procedure. Students submit essays, self-assessments, secondary school reports and transcripts to the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. Applicants are then evaluated on academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership, service, extracurricular activities and essay content.

Approximately 800 students will qualify as semifinalists of one of the Nation’s highest honors for students. Those names will be disclosed the week of April 12, 2021.

The next step is for the Commission of Presidential Scholars to review the applications of all semifinalists based on the same criteria used by the review committee. The Commission will select up to 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars and announce the winners the week of May 3, 2021.

In honoring the U.S. Presidential Scholars, the President of the United States symbolically honors all graduating high school seniors of high potential. The U.S. Presidential Scholars will be invited to Washington D.C. in June to receive the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion during a ceremony sponsored by the White House.