New Trier senior Asher Noel was named a 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholar this month, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students. On June 23, he will attend a White House-sponsored ceremony in Washington D.C., where he will receive a Presidential Scholar medallion.
"I'm getting the award, but I'm a product of New Trier: my teachers, friends, and the community," Noel said. "I'm very thankful."
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by executive order of the President to recognize and honor some of the country's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. Scholars are selected based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Of the 161 high school seniors selected for the 55th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, four students were from Illinois.
"One of the traits I admire most about Asher is his ability to conflate his experiences across disciplines," said Noel's former AP English Language and Composition teacher Megan Garton, whom he invited to attend the ceremony in June. "Asher is flexible in his thinking and moves through the world with the conviction that to engage in any content area is to fully immerse oneself in both an artistic and a scientific study."
In addition to earning an unweighted GPA of 4.0 and a perfect ACT score of 36 during his time at New Trier, Noel was involved in an array of extracurricular activities. He was a state and national champion several times through his participation with the Math Team, Science Olympiad, and Academic Challenge, and served as a co-head for all three organizations. He participated in the 2018 Summer Science Program in Astrophysics at New Mexico Tech, where his focus on Python programming, orbital mechanics, and data management was voted best research presentation by faculty and published in the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Circular.
Noel worked with fellow senior Matt Geimer and the New Trier administration to establish a TrevIT Internship Program in which students provide technology assistance to staff and fellow students. He also co-founded BinaryHeart with seniors Jack Altman, Brendon Lee, and Marzuk Rashid, a student organization that works to "spread digital access" by collecting donations of broken or used electronic devices and repairing them. Through its partnership with Northwestern Settlement and other partner charities, BinaryHeart donates the devices to underserved youth in the greater Chicago area.
"Although New Trier is such a huge school, there are so many niches for each individual to get involved," Noel said, adding that the friends he made through extracurricular activities provided a sense of community, which contributed to his academic success along with his "amazing teachers."
Noel worked closely throughout the application process with Post-High School Counselor Daniel Rogan and received input from his AP Biology teacher, Frank Salerno. While the process was more in-depth than any of his college applications, Noel said Rogan's work with previous candidates provided invaluable experience in going through the application process.
"The contributions Asher made during class discussion were invaluable," Garton said. "I found myself learning just as much from Asher as he was from the great artists we were studying. He brought a fresh and invigorating perspective to works with which I'm quite familiar, and for the first time in years I felt like I was navigating new terrain. It was a wonderful experience."