Ethan Chiu of Syosset High School has been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, the only student from Long Island to receive what is considered one of the nation’s highest honors for seniors.

“The best part of being in these programs is the other people that you get to meet [and] the connections that you get to form,” Chiu said Thursday after learning the news.

Chiu, 17, was among 161 scholars chosen nationwide. The other six scholars in New York are from Bronxville, Irvington, Rye and New York City.

Presidential Scholars are selected by the White House Commission annually based on their academic performance, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership. The federal program was created in 1964.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Ethan Chiu, 17, has been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school seniors.
  • Chiu, a Syosset High School senior, is the only student from Long Island to receive the honor.
  • The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, and the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selected 161 scholars this year, including seven students in New York.

Chiu has a grade-point-average of 100, the highest a student at Syosset High School can get. He had a perfect ACT score, 36, and a score of 1,570 out of 1,600 on the SAT.

Chiu, who also was a finalist in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search 2022 competition, said he looks forward to meeting the other scholars during the virtual recognition program scheduled for the summer.

Chiu received $27,000 as a Regeneron semifinalist and finalist for his research project on developing a self-formed ectodermal autonomous, multi-zone organoid model using human stem cells to examine the effect of doxycycline treatment on uveal melanoma, the most common deadly eye cancer.   

Ethan Chiu is among 161 Presidential Scholars nationwide and the...

Ethan Chiu is among 161 Presidential Scholars nationwide and the only one on Long Island. Credit: Reece T. Williams

He recalled how he initially felt intimidated to be among a group of smart students during the weeklong Regeneron competition in Washington, D.C., in March.

“Once I got to know them, I felt like they're honestly really humble, really down to earth and self-aware,” Chiu said. “I was able to form pretty deep and meaningful connections to them, even though we only had a week in D.C. And I'm sure something similar will happen with the Presidential Scholars program.”

Gavin Schwen, a social studies teacher who taught Chiu last school year, said Chiu has a genuine interest in peeling off the complexity of a subject.

“We were talking about Calvin Coolidge, who often is the president [that] is normally marginalized as simply somebody who was driven by business and hands-off,” Schwen said. “[Ethan] went and read a whole book on Calvin Coolidge to get some background and got into [Coolidge's] really interesting, nuanced personality that we all have.”

This fall, Chiu will head to New Haven, Connecticut, to study ethics, politics and economics, as well as molecular, cellular and developmental biology, at Yale University.

Chiu said he is interested in pursuing law, or medicine, or both, after graduating from Yale. He likes medical research and wants to find ways to help build a more accessible and affordable health care system for Americans.

His interest in health care was in part formed after volunteering in 2019 at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. He recalled meeting a woman who was crying because her son couldn't afford cancer medication.

Working as a receptionist that day, Chiu said he referred the woman to someone more experienced for help.

“After that, I felt like I really wanted to try to figure out ways that I could personally help in some way, more than I could there because, to be honest, I felt pretty helpless,” he said. “I didn't know what to do.”

The last time Syosset High School had a presidential scholar was in 2017, Principal Giovanni Durante said.

Of the 3.7 million students expected to graduate this school year, more than 5,000 candidates qualified, the U.S. Department of Education said in a news release Thursday announcing the scholars.

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