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3 students from Long Island named Presidential Scholars

Syosset High School senior Ben Rhee and Jericho

Syosset High School senior Ben Rhee and Jericho High School senior Grace Hu, both 18, were two of three Long Island high school students named United States Presidential Scholars on Friday, May 5, 2017. Juliana Missano, a Lloyd Harbor resident enrolled in The Keystone School based in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, also was named a Presidential Scholar, but could not be reached Friday. Credit: Newsday

Three high school seniors from Long Island are among 161 students across the country recognized as United States Presidential Scholars for academic achievements and talent in their chosen fields of study.

Grace Hu, of Jericho High School, Juliana Missano, a Lloyd Harbor resident enrolled in The Keystone School based in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and Ben S. Rhee, of Syosset High School, are the local honorees this year.

The students made the list of the nation’s most distinguished out of 4,000 whose SAT and ACT scores brought them to the attention of the program — an honor that has been extended by the president each year since 1964 to recognize young talent.

Hu found out about the honor while in Houston, attending the International Sustainable World Engineering Energy Environment Project olympiad. She was a finalist there for her science research.

“I was in my hotel room and I saw online the release and I kind of freaked out,” said Hu, 18. “I called my roommate, I told my best friend and he also freaked out with me, and then I went to find my teacher.”

She said her accomplishment is the result of “group effort,” with parents, teachers and friends supporting her thoughout her high school years.

Rhee was “very shocked” to be selected and also credited others for his level of achievement.

“This award, it doesn’t just represent me,” said Rhee, 18. “It represents my whole community, all the people who helped me along the way, my family and school, all the people that have been there for me.”

Missano could not be reached and her school had not responded Friday to a request for comment.

All scholars will be honored and receive medallions at the National Recognition Program sponsored by the White House, to be held June 18 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in a statement, heralded the Presidential Scholars as “tomorrow’s leaders” who “will continue to be shining examples as they enter the next phase of their academic careers.”

Earlier this year, both Hu and Rhee were among Long Island students named Regeneron Scholars in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, which honors top student researchers.

She has focused on the use of nanoparticles — gold-coated specks invisible to the naked eye — to aid in nerve-tissue regeneration, possibly to someday treat people with brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Hu, who will attend MIT in the fall, said the use of nanotechnology appealed to her “because it incorporated elements from chemistry and physics,” which are among her favorite subjects.

Rhee, who will go to Harvard University, targeted his research on the study of power dissipation as a better measure of the destructive power of extratropical cyclones on infrastructure and other property. He was partly inspired by a significant weather event in our region.

“So when Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island, like, even my own house was damaged,” Rhee said. “And it turns out Sandy was in an extratropical stage when it hit the East Coast and, surprisingly, many people didn’t know how bad this cyclone would get.”

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