ELLSWORTH — From a pool of over 6,500 high school seniors nominated across the country, Ellsworth senior Pedro Santiago Little-Siebold is one of 625 semifinalists in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. The initial pool was culled from the 3.6 million seniors graduating this spring based on grade point averages and SAT scores or, for arts students, their creative and academic achievements.
“To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the program before,” Little-Siebold said. “I got it in the mail from the Department of Education and I was like, whoa, what’s this? Yeah, it was quite something.”
Little-Siebold will find out later this month if he is one of 161 seniors named a 2021 Presidential Scholar, with the expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and the White House medal ceremony that comes with the honor. Created by the Department of Education in 1964, the program also offers networking opportunities and interaction with national and international scientists, authors, educators, musicians and government officials.
To reach semifinalist status, Little-Siebold had to write an essay and provide information on Ellsworth High School and his classes. The selection committee also evaluated candidates based on personal characteristics, leadership and service activities.
“When I got the semifinal notification, I was not expecting that at all,” Little-Siebold said. “It’s a really great opportunity, so I really hope I do make it to the final round.”
There are seven semifinalists for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program from Maine.
Little-Siebold plans to study business management and innovation when he starts at the University of Pennsylvania come fall.
“I’m really excited about that,” he said. “I think the intersection between business and politics is the best way to bring around opportunity and access to communities like Ellsworth, where it’s not like you live in the center of the city.”
“For me, that path wasn’t through politics,” he continued. “I thought business was the way I could create new opportunity and new access for education. In part, I’m really interested in how technology can enable that kind of intersection.”