Outstanding Seniors Selected as District's Nominees for U.S. Presidential Scholars Program
Established in 1964, the United States Presidential Scholars Program was established for the purpose of recognizing and honoring our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. Each year, up to 161 American students receive this prestigious honor for their academic achievements, talents in the visual, creative or performing arts, or abilities and accomplishments in career and technical education (CTE) fields.
The Martin County School District’s selection committee received many outstanding recommendations this year, making the task of narrowing down nominees to just two exemplary students quite difficult. After careful deliberation, Gigi Copeland of Jensen Beach High School (JBHS) and Spencer Hackler of South Fork High School (SFHS) were selected to represent Martin County in this year’s competition. Both students excel inside and outside of the classroom, serving as leaders in their schools and in our community.
Gigi Copeland (Academic Award Nominee)
“Gigi’s best attribute is her tenacity and positive spirit,” Jennifer Ali, JBHS guidance counselor, wrote in her letter of recommendation. “If she is interested in something or sets a goal, she will do her research and try to fulfill that quest or goal.”
Gigi has a genuine love for learning that extends beyond academic subjects into the world around her. She has attained a weighted GPA of 6.05 and has never scored lower than a 4 on the eight Advanced Placement (AP) exams she has taken thus far. The founder of Jensen Beach High School’s chapter of TASSEL (Teaching and Sharing Skills to Enrich Lives), Gigi has spent countless hours teaching English to elementary school students in rural Cambodia via video calls. While many students use the summer months to relax and unwind after the school year, Gigi spends her summers honing her skills. Prior to her sophomore year, she attended the Startalk Language Camp for Chinese at Arizona State University, where she participated in immersive Chinese language classes, cultural activities and presentations. Before beginning her junior year, she attended the AMP Global Scholar Camp, where she visited embassies and cultural centers in her quest to learn more about international relations and social justice. She is an active member of Jensen Beach High School’s chapter of the National Honor Society, Chinese Club/Chinese Honor Society, Debate Club and Art Club/Art Honor Society. She has earned the Florida Gold Seal of Biliteracy and also volunteers through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“Gigi was one of my rare students to reach out during the summer before her freshman year to discuss if she was making the right decisions about her courses,” Ms. Ali said. “She wanted to make sure they were appropriate for the trajectory she had in mind, but she also wanted to make sure she would enjoy them. She has maintained that same level of intrigue every year.”
Spencer Hackler (CTE Award Nominee)
Spencer has been a student in South Fork High School’s Academy of Landscape & Turfgrass Management for four years. “In that time, he has learned to correctly identify more than 250 plants, become a Florida Certified Horticulture Professional and competed in a collegiate-level sports turf quiz bowl,” Academy instructor Wendy Schepman wrote in her letter of recommendation.
Spencer achieves his goals while diligently working to develop and display positive character. A member of the Boy Scouts of America’s local Troop 774 since the first grade, he earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout in September of this year. He has earned the rank of Cadet First Sergeant as a member of South Fork’s JROTC program, where he enjoys participating in physical activities that require him to exhibit exemplary teamwork and leadership skills. Academically, Spencer maintains a 3.02 GPA and is dual-enrolled at Indian River State College, where he eagerly takes advantage of all of the turfgrass management courses available to him. In his free time, he continues to prepare for his future as an intern at Lost Tree Club in North Palm Beach.
“My current position requires me to pursue a career in turfgrass science and to have basic experience in golf course maintenance,” Spencer shares. “By successfully completing this internship, I will have the skills and knowledge to transition into a management position either at my current place of employment or at a different course.”
Gigi and Spencer’s names have been provided to the Florida Department of Education for consideration as state-level nominees for the award. If chosen to move forward in the competition, their applications will be sent to the national program in January 2021. Presidential Scholars will be announced at the beginning of May 2021. For more information about the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, please click here.