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Long IslandEducation

Three LI students are nominees for Presidential Scholars Program

The high school seniors are among 25 statewide chosen by the education commissioner based upon their achievements.

Mariah Wittschack of Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School,

Mariah Wittschack of Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School, Cory Nichols of Oceanside High School and Christian Hernandez of MacArthur High School in Levittown are the three Long Island students among 25 high school seniors statewide to be nominated as 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars. Photo Credit: Lors Photography, Lifetouch Photography, Levittown school district

Three Long Island teenagers are among 25 high school seniors across the state nominated for the 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, state education officials announced.

Christian Hernandez of MacArthur High School in Levittown, Cory H. Nichols of Oceanside High School and Mariah Wittschack of Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School were selected for consideration. All are 17.

“The distinguished nominees are representative of the many talented high school students across our state,” Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in announcing the nominees last week.

Ultimately, one young man and one young woman from each state are selected as U.S. presidential scholars — a recognition considered one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.

Eligibility is based on three paths of accomplishment: academic achievement; academic and artistic scholarship in the visual arts, the performing arts or creative writing; and outstanding scholarship in the career and technical education fields.

In New York, the head of the state Education Department nominates students for the federal recognition after students have been recommended by local legislators, according to state officials. How the legislators select students can vary, and many reach out to local high schools for suggestions.

Kristina Cuomo, English teacher at the Gerald R. Claps Career and Technical Center — a program in the Levittown schools — said Hernandez is someone who “goes above and beyond for his peers.”

Hernandez of Seaford studies electrical technology at the center and plans to major in chemical and electrical engineering. He is a competitive swimmer and involved in several clubs at the school.

Hernandez credits the school for his success. “The people here are amazing,” he said.

Nichols of Oceanside was named an academic and arts nominee. He founded a nonprofit called C the Difference: Cory Cares in 2012. Since then, he has raised more than $60,000 to help feed families and delivered tens of thousands of pounds of food to those in need.

“I love seeing the effect that it has on other people’s lives and how easy it is to get other people involved in giving back,” Nichols said in an interview Friday.

Earlier this year, he was one of five honorees nationwide for the 2017 Young Adult Caring Award from the nonprofit Caring Institute for “exemplifying selfless service to those in need,” the organization said.

Wittschack of Manorville studies nursing through a program offered by Eastern Suffolk BOCES. She also is a youth volunteer with Manorville Community Ambulance.

Her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 7, she said, and she saw firsthand how nurses help not only patients but their families, too.

“It is really cool to give back,” she said.

Semifinalists will be notified in mid-April, with those chosen as presidential scholars notified in May.

U.S. presidential scholars receive a trip to Washington, D.C., in June and are awarded the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House.

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