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Durham Academy senior Sam Kim is a semifinalist in the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes graduating high school seniors' academic and artistic accomplishments. He is among 722 students from across the country — 20 of whom are North Carolinians — selected to advance to the final round of the prestigious competition.
From nearly 3.3 million graduating high school seniors across the country, nearly 5,100 were identified as candidates in the Presidential Scholars Program, chiefly by virtue of their performance on college entrance exams. In addition to Kim, DA fielded two other candidates this year: Eren Guttentag and Ivan Zaytsev.
Kim is also a National Merit Scholarship finalist and will be inducted into DA's Cum Laude Society in May. He was awarded DA’s Calculus Award for the 2014-2015 school year. Kim’s extracurricular involvement at DA has been multifaceted — he is a four-year member of the swim team, has been a strong competitor on the Science Olympiad squad and Math Team, and founded the Upper School’s Learn Korean Club.
Among the activities Kim has devoted the most time is the The Green and White student newspaper — “it’s been a really big part of my four years of high school,” he said.
“It takes up a lot of time — we’re not professional journalists, we’re in high school — so we have kind of figured things out as we go. It’s been a good challenge,” he said of learning how to write and edit in a journalistic style.
In addition, Kim has played violin in the pit band for the last three years of Upper School winter musicals — for the productions Thoroughly Modern Millie, Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me — and performed in the Duke University String School orchestra for three years.
Kim spent the summer of 2016 working as an electrical engineering intern with Duke University’s MIST Research Group, where he built laser shutters using hard drive voice coil actuators.
“I thought I knew about electronics, he said, “but I learned so much that I didn’t know before about circuitry and about engineering parts of electronics.”
In college, Kim plans to study biochemistry and is also interested in studying journalism and linguistics. Ultimately, he hopes to pursue a career in biological research.
"It was pretty wild,” Kim said of being named a Presidential Scholar semifinalist. “I wasn’t expecting it. … I didn’t really hope to advance. It was a great surprise for me, and it’s a real honor.”
Later this spring, the Commission on Presidential Scholars will make the final selection of up to 161 Presidential Scholars. Scholars who are selected will be flown to Washington, D.C., in June and presented the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a White House-sponsored ceremony.
Durham Academy has been home to three previous Presidential Scholars.
Photo is courtesy of Mary Moore McLean Photography.