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Monday, June 24, 2024

Yale-bound Ocala student named 2024 Presidential Scholar

An Ocala high school senior who earned a full scholarship to Yale University next fall has been named a Presidential Scholar by the U.S. Department of Education, becoming one of just six students in Florida and 161 students in the nation to receive the honor.

North Marion High School’s Esperance J. Han, a member of this year’s graduating class, was recognized last week for her accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.

Esperance Han
North Marion High School student Esperance Han (Photo: Marion County Public Schools)

While being named a Presidential Scholar does not come with a monetary award, Marion County Public Schools stated that the honor is prestigious enough to qualify students for other monetary scholarships.

During the summer following her junior year, Han toured several Ivy League schools thanks to her submission and acceptance as a QuestBridge scholar. In that program, Han was matched to Yale University on a full scholarship.

Esperance Han (1)
Esperance Han will attend Yale University this fall.

QuestBridge is a program that helps high-achieving students in low-income households by providing direct access to dozens of top-level universities, including a few in the Ivy League.

In an email to Ocala-News.com following her acceptance into Yale, Han stated that she “never believed any of this was possible.” She said that she shared her family’s financial struggles with friends, teachers, and counselors, and was “shocked” at how everyone in her life offered to help.

“My friends are the ones who made sure I was able to attend my activism events in Ocala by driving me, my counselors are the ones who held my hand and instilled in me that my dreams were tangible, and my teachers are the ones who motivated me and encouraged me through every tear and challenge,” said Han.

During her time at North Marion High, Han became a varsity cheerleader and the president of several clubs and organizations. She said that she wanted to share her story to help other students believe in themselves.

“I was always doubting myself and never felt good enough or as accomplished as other students in QuestBridge. Never let anything stop you, just do what you love, and do it well. Anything is possible,” said Han.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars program is currently in its 60th year. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on academic success, excellence in the arts and in technical education, through essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.

This year, around 3.7 million students are expected to graduate from high school, and MCPS stated that more than 5,700 of these students – including Han – qualified for the 2024 awards.

The pool of student candidates was then narrowed down based on their performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams, as well as nominations that were made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations, and YoungArts.

Han received the Presidential Scholar honor following her nomination by the QuestBridge program.

The 2024 U.S. Presidential Scholars, by Presidential Executive Order, include two students from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 students chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts, and 20 scholars in career and technical education.

A total of 161 students nationwide received this year’s Presidential Scholars honor.

The Presidential Scholars Class of 2024 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer with an online recognition program.