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Event at UNM celebrates high-achieving students

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hundreds of UNM’s best and brightest and their sponsors got together last week for the Presidential Scholarship event that celebrates student scholars – many of whom share a keen interest in improving the world in which they live.

The annual University of New Mexico program Thursday evening featured talks by three senior Presidential Scholars, each of whom mentioned travel:

⋄  Jaylee Caruso said the scholarship helped make it possible for her to spend a year studying in Costa Rica, learning Spanish, meeting other students from around the globe and figuring out what she will do with her life to make the world a better place.

⋄  Aarya Engineer told the crowd that the scholarship not only serves to “keep remarkable young scholars in the state,” but also allowed one – himself – to backpack through Western Europe and learn more about that part of the globe.

⋄  Bethany Cohnheim was able to study in Rome one summer, an experience she is not likely to forget any time soon. “I’ve traveled, I’ve learned, and I’ve grown in ways I could never have imagined,” she said.

The Presidential Scholarship Program was launched in 1976 with $60,000 from business leaders around the state. There are currently 469 Presidential Scholars enrolled at the university, including 133 freshmen.

Sponsors give $2,600 to support one scholar per academic year.

Only 3 percent of incoming freshmen are named Presidential Scholars, a merit-based award that amounts to $8,186 per year, renewable for four years – provided that all requirements are met and maintained.

Besides earning a minimum GPA of 3.75 in high school, student scholars must score at least 25 on the ACT or 1140 on the SAT. They also need to show service to the community and write an essay on why they should be considered for an award. GED holders can apply.

At UNM, scholars must take 15 credit hours for the fall and spring semesters and maintain a GPA of 3.0.

That hasn’t been difficult for Jessica Tipton, who is studying communication with a minor in political science and, at the same time, German with a minor in honors or interdisciplinary studies.

“I’m still a little amazed that the Presidential Scholarship offers me the opportunity to focus on my education so thoroughly,” said Tipton, who was born in Germany and came to this country when she was 7. She is debating attending law school to practice contract law, “specifically in publishing to make sure that independent authors receive fair deals with publishing companies,” or working toward a graduate degree “so that I may teach university students either in communication or German.”

In her wildest dreams, she would like to translate fiction from German to English, or even write it.