Some high school graduates get a watch, others a pen set. But two of Utah's finest 1991 high school graduates got something Wednesday they'll never forget: the Presidential Scholar Award from President Bush.
Nephi D. Allred, Provo, and Lisa A. Grow, Salt Lake City, were two of 141 high school graduates nationwide to receive this year's award, which included a weeklong trip to Washington that ended with a ceremony at the White House and a speech by Bush."I kind of had a feeling I was going to get it. I don't know. I guess I wasn't too surprised," Allred said, standing outside of the White House Wednesday afternoon.
"But I was really excited when the mail-o-gram from President Bush came," he added.
Both Allred and Grow chose a teacher who had the greatest influence in their lives to accompany them to Washington. Allred choose his 11th-grade English teacher at Timpview High School, Joyce Oldroyd, and Grow chose her AP American History teacher from Brighton High School, Kristie T. Pitts.
All four Utahns attended the speech by Bush where he told them they were living examples of an educational success story.
"America has no natural resources greater than its intellectual resource," Bush said.
He told the story of a man who was asked what he would take if his house was on fire. The man replied he could only think of one thing that he would want to take . . . the fire.
"See, education works," Bush said.
As Bush began his speech he said, "First, I want to say there is absolutely no rule here that says the person giving the speech has to be as smart as the students - thank heavens."
During the speech, Bush challenged each of the students to give of themselves and their talents.
"The definition of a successful life is to serve. But you can't serve if you can't think," he said.
Grow said she agreed with Bush, and she feels it is important to always be serving in the community.
Allred said he feels his career goal to be a scientist will also help him serve. "But on a smaller level, there are lots of things you can do, like being involved with a scouting organization or something."
Grow and Allred were chosen from among 1,500 other semifinalists - who are first selected by scoring exceptionally high on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT).
Those 1,500 students are then narrowed to 500 after they are judged on essays, self-assessments, school recommendations and transcripts. The final cut, which left only 141 scholars this year, is made by the Commission of Presidential Scholars, a group of 30 citizens appointed by Bush.
"What you see here are some of the best and brightest," Bush said.