Shiva Rajbhandari of Boise and Claire Yoo of Idaho Falls were named Idaho’s 2023 Presidential Scholars, according to a Wednesday announcement from the U.S. Department of Education.
“U.S. Presidential Scholars have always represented the future of our country and the bright promise it holds. I want each of these remarkable students to know: your passion and intellect, pursuit of excellence, and spirit of service are exactly what our country needs,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a Wednesday press release.
A senior at Boise High School, Rajbhandari is Idaho’s teenage trustee — the first student to sit on a local school board. He’s received national attention for his groundbreaking election, along with his activism for climate change solutions, reproductive rights, voting rights and other social justice issues. Rajbhandari also co-leads BABE VOTE, a nonprofit that focuses on registering and encouraging young Americans to vote. After graduating from Boise High, he’ll head to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Yoo is a senior at Idaho Falls High School. She’s served as the President of the Young Democrats chapter in Bonneville County, and was the 2022 recipient of the Idaho National Laboratory’s Bright Future in Energy scholarship award. A musician, Yoo plays professionally with the Idaho Falls Symphony and was selected to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of the 2022 National Youth Orchestra of the United States. She’ll attend Harvard University after her high school graduation.
The Idaho students are two of 161 high school seniors nationally to receive this year’s award. Over 5,000 candidates qualified.
Recipients are selected based on academic merit, artistic and technical skills, school evaluations and essays. Students must also have a proven commitment to their community, demonstrated through community service and leadership.
“I want to extend my congratulations to these two students for their notable accomplishments in the classroom and for achieving this recognized and distinguished honor,” Superintendent Debbie Critchfield said. “Their individual educational pursuits have earned them the title of Presidential Scholar, as designated by the U.S. Department of Education. I am confident this is something they, their families and their schools will be proud of.”
This year’s awardees will be honored in an online recognition program. Typically, Presidential Scholars receive a presidential medallion to commemorate their achievement.