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Two Maine seniors named U.S. Presidential Scholars

The distinction this year was awarded to just 161 high school seniors across the country.

MAINE, Maine — Two Maine seniors are among the newest class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. The honor this year was given to just 161 high school seniors across the country.

Sirohi Kumar from Mount Desert Island High School and Brett Palmer of Gardiner Area High School were recognized for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, technical excellence, and community service. 

Kumar is active in racial justice and environmental issues and helped pass Bar Harbor's climate emergency declaration. She plans to attend Smith College in Massachusetts this fall.

Brett Palmer is the valedictorian of his senior class at Gardiner Area High School. Besides carrying an intense academic load, he also serves as the president of the drama club and student council and is a member of the National Honor Society. The senior was already a National Merit Scholarship Finalist based on his PSAT scores when he took his SATs earlier this year. 

"I did a 1540 and I then retook it for 1560, which may seem silly but I wanted to be competitive, and it's something I wanted to do," Palmer explained.

That SAT score qualified him to apply to be a U.S. Presidential Scholar. The program was created in 1964 and honors the nation's top-performing students annually. Earlier this month, he was selected as one of two students from Maine. This year the selections were made from nearly 4 million high school seniors based on outstanding academic performance, artistic achievements.. technical excellence, and community service. Part of that process involved writing several essays. Palmer, who has a first-degree black belt in karate, says the discipline he learned in martial arts transcended his academic performance. 

"I think that's translated to having leadership in the classroom and I am very grateful for that," Palmer explained.

Palmer is also a talented artist, creating images both on paper and with digital drawing programs. He will attend the University of Maine at Orono on a full scholarship this fall. He plans to pursue a double major in computer science and new media. Gardiner Principal Chad Kempton has known Brett all his life and credits his work ethic and compassion for others for his success.

"All of the educators that have worked with him aren't really surprised because he is just that quality of a kid, all around. It's not just the academics. His GPA is like 103," Kempton added.

Palmer is honored to be a role model for other students. He believes that you don't have to overextend yourself to achieve your dreams.

"You don't have to do everything ... do what you are passionate about first and then good things will follow.," Palmer said. 

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