Five NYS CTE Students nominated for the 2017 Presidential Scholars Program.


We are excited to recognize the class of nominees for the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education! This is the second year that the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program includes recognition for excellence among students in career and technical education.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and, since that time, the program has honored more than over 7,000 outstanding high school seniors. The mission of the program is to recognize and honor outstanding high school seniors, and thereby encourage high attainment among all students.

Per the original Executive Order establishing the program, students are selected on the basis of outstanding scholarship. For most of the program's existence, nominees have been invited to apply for Presidential Scholars recognition based upon SAT or ACT scores. As the program has grown, Scholars candidates have been invited to apply in other ways as well. Beginning in 1979, outstanding students who demonstrated ability and accomplishment in the visual and performing arts or creative writing were added to the program. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education. Each year, up to 161 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.

Application for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program is by invitation only. Since 2013, Chief State School Officers (CSSO) have been asked to nominate candidates from their states. Students may not apply individually to the program or be nominated (outside of the above process). The CSSO in NY is the Commissioner of Education and she was able to nominate up to five CTE candidates. Letters of invitation to all students who met the qualifying requirements were mailed during the week of January 23, 2017.

Next step? Nominees must have completed an application by February 28, 2017 and will be evaluated on: Involvement and Service (in school and community), Leadership and Character, Writing samples, Academic achievements, and discretionary points for extraordinary achievement, heavy workload, family responsibilities, or obstacles overcome.

Semifinalists will be announced mid-April and in early May the Commission on Presidential Scholars will select and announce the names of the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars. In June, the Presidential Scholars will receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at the National Recognition Program in Washington, DC.

To learn more about the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program and the Commission on Presidential Scholars, please visit their Web site at:

We look forward to the recognition of the NY CTE Scholars in another remarkable class of U.S. Presidential Scholars.


Meet the New York State Nominees in

Career and Technical Education


Siena Gates

Southampton HS, Southampton, NY studying at H.B. Ward Technical and Academic Center (Eastern Suffolk BOCES)


Siena is enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program at H.B. Ward Technical and Academic Center (Eastern Suffolk BOCES) and is earning a Regents Diploma. Angela Hughes-Johnson, Siena's school counselor, states: "When we read the profile of what they were looking for in a CTE Presidential Scholar, we knew that Siena was the student we wanted to nominate! Through determination, perseverance, a positive attitude, and a genuine love of children Siena found her formula for success. She is now a self-assured and quietly-confident young woman with a vision for her future”.

Outside of class, Siena is involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Best Buddies, and Special Olympics. After school, she is employed at East End Center of Therapeutic Riding, that uses equine activities to help children with developmental disabilities. Siena plans on pursuing a post-secondary program in education but has not yet decided which school, from among the ones to which she has been accepted, she would like to attend.

Assembly member Fred Thiele commented: “I am thrilled that Commissioner Elia has chosen one of my local students to be one of the New York State high school seniors she nominates for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program! Ms. Siena Gates of Southampton High School is an outstanding student who stands out as having academic success, leadership qualities, and extraordinary personal achievements. I am proud to represent this fine young woman in the First Assembly District and wish her luck as she moves to the national level as a finalist in this notable competition."

Brenna Katsoudas

Niskayuna High School, Niskayuna NY studying at Capital Region BOCES


Brenna is enrolled in the Cosmetology Program at Capital Region BOCES and is earning a Regents Diploma. Anne-Marie Hughes, Brenna’s school counselor, indicates that Brenna's strong work ethic, organizational skills, and being “driven” to achieve success contributed to her receiving this nomination. Ms. Hughes states: “What stands out the most about Brenna is how clear she is about her future. I am impressed with her consistent follow-through”.

Brenna is currently seeking a part-time job as a make-up artist at a cosmetic counter in order to gain valuable retail experience. Since she has already had much training through BOCES, Brenna plans on working in the make-up industry immediately after high school to gain more work experience and have access to further training. In the future she would like to work in New York City as a make-up artist in the fashion industry and possibly behind the scenes in theatre. Brenna says she may even want to own her own business someday. Ms. Hughes indicates that since she is a hard worker and always presents herself well she will no doubt be successful in whatever aspect of the industry she chooses to pursue.

Assembly member Phil Steck commented: "I am thrilled that Brenna Katsoudas has been chosen by Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia as one of the nominees for the Presidential Scholars Program. Brenna’s commitment to excellence in her educational endeavors has been an example of success throughout her school community. Her hard work and positive attitude have made her an outstanding example of the youth in New York State and the Capital Region. I would like to congratulate Brenna and her family on this achievement and wish her continued success in the future.”

Santos Otero

Albany HS, Albany, NY studying at Abrookin Career and Technical Center


Santos is enrolled in the Carpentry Program at Abrookin Career and Technical Center. Arthur Erbe, Santos’ carpentry teacher comments: “Santos has an outstanding attendance record, is eager to learn every day, and consistently maintains grades in the nineties. In addition, he is polite, patient, works well with others, and often helps classmates when they need assistance”.

Santos prefers the fine woodworking skills needed to make furniture (over rough carpentry) and has received much attention for his projects. Whether on display at Open House, or in the main office for viewing, everyone is impressed with his meticulous work. In addition to his own projects, Santos has offered to help faculty members with repairs on their classroom and home furniture.

After school, Santos is employed in an entry-level, part-time position at the NYS Office of General Services (OGS). Joe Fesel, Work Based Learning Coordinator, indicates that Santos is one of 15 Albany High School students selected to pilot a new initiative: The NYS OGS High School Internship Program. Over 80 seniors submitted applications and were interviewed by Albany High staff. OGS then interviewed 25 students to fill 15 available internship positions. Through this paid internship, Santos gains real-world experience with the possibility of long-term employment.

After high school, Santos would like to either apply for an apprentice position or pursue post-secondary education at Hudson Valley Community College.

Assembly member Patricia Fahy stated: "I could not be more proud to have helped nominate and to see Albany High School student, Santos Otero recognized as a Presidential Scholars nominee. Santos, as a third-year career and technical education student, has been diligent in the craft of carpentry and is focused on improving his community. I commend Santos and wish him success in their future endeavors."

Jon Stremovihtg

Avon High School, Avon, NY studying at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership


Jon is enrolled in the Building Trades Program at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and is earning a Regents Diploma. This program provides students with a background applicable to both residential and commercial construction. Elizabeth Cooke, Jon’s school counselor, states: “Jon is a hard worker and always tries his best. I believe that is why he was nominated for this prestigious award.”

Jon also has a part time job at Tops. Ms. Cooke adds: “Jon is as serious about his job as he is about his school work. He always strives to do his best”.

After high school, Jon plans on attending Alfred State for Construction Management.

Assembly man Senator Patrick M. Gallivan commented: “I am pleased that Commissioner Elia has nominated Jon Stremovihtg of Avon High School for the Presidential Scholars Program. Jon has worked hard to excel in both his school and his community and offer hope and promise for our future. I congratulate him on his nomination for this prestigious award and wish him continued success.”

Tanner Yager

Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School, Cherry Valley, NY studying at Otsego Northern Catskill BOCES


Tanner is enrolled in the Information Technologies Program at Otsego Northern Catskill BOCES. He has also completed a rigorous academic course load as evidenced by being named valedictorian. Bridgett Manley, Tanner's school counselor, indicates that Tanner's strong work ethic and academic achievement are only two things that contributed to him receiving this nomination. She adds: “Tanner is also dedicated, driven, and a fantastic kid! He always goes out of his way to help others”.
Outside of school, Tanner has been on the track team for four years, is president of the Technology Club, and is a member of National Honor Society, Varsity Club, and Drama Club.

Tanner has realized his passion for “working his way up through the ranks”. As a result, Tanner has already signed papers and will be joining the Navy after graduation.

Senator James L. Seward stated: “I am extremely pleased to congratulate Tanner Yager of Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School, along with the rest of New York State’s candidates for a coveted Presidential Scholarship. Tanner is from the 51st Senate District. He is an exemplary student, well-rounded, and a community-minded individual. Along with his accomplishments, Tanner also shows boundless potential for future greatness. I look forward to following news of his achievements as his potential is unlocked. Best of luck to all of New York State’s nominees – they are our leaders of tomorrow.”