A Hilton Head Island High School student is among 61 South Carolina seniors vying for awards in the 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholars program, the S.C. Department of Education announced Monday.
Matt Trusz, 18, will compete in a national pool of 3,000 students for an award that honors students for outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship and community service.
Candidates include students in public and private schools.
Trusz said Monday he was surprised to learn of his candidacy because he didn't apply for the honor. Graduating high school seniors who scored exceptionally well on either the SAT or the ACT college admission tests are automatically considered for participation. Trusz said he earned a combined score of 2,350 out of a possible 2,400 on the math, reading and writing portions of the SAT.
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"I'm extremely excited," Trusz said.
A review committee will narrow the list of candidates to about 500 in the semifinal round. About 120 students will make the final round and be invited to an awards program in Washington, D.C., this summer, according to the state Education Department.
The Presidential Scholars program was created in 1964 to recognize academic achievement. It expanded in 1979 to salute students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts.
Trusz plans to study business at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania next fall.
At Hilton Head High, he's involved with the Model United Nations, a simulation of the U.N. General Assembly. Student delegates debate current issues, make speeches, prepare draft resolutions and negotiate with allies and adversaries.
Trusz said he hopes to win a "Most Outstanding Delegate" award when he competes at a Model U.N. conference at Georgia Southern University next month.
"I like debating," he said. "It's something that comes (naturally) to me."
Trusz also played guitar during three recent productions at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina: "The Who's Tommy," "Aida" and "Man of La Mancha."