Antilles student named Presidential Scholar


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ST. THOMAS - Antilles School senior Taylor Ladd has been named as a recipient of one of the nation's top honors for high school graduates.

Ladd, 17, learned that she was one of 141 Presidential Scholars chosen from around the nation after a selective process that examined the essays and applications of hundreds of finalists.

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Barack Obama, selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

"There's a lot of people in the world, and a lot of cool people in this world. I didn't really think I was one of them." Ladd said. "I cried out of happiness. I've never cried from happiness before."

Ladd, who will attend Harvard University this fall, already has been recruited for the Ivy League university's varsity sailing team, though she does not yet know what she will be studying.

"I have a lot of things I am interested in," Ladd said.

Though Ladd looked at and applied to various Ivy League schools, she chose Harvard because travel between Boston and the Virgin Islands would be relatively effortless and also because her brother Jordan is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nearby, this year as a freshman.

Her brother, who she wrote about as a competitor and a best friend in one of the essays she submitted to the Presidential Scholars program, has helped to drive her to success by challenging and supporting her through her youth, she said.

Another person who motivated Ladd was her college advisor, Chris Teare, who time and again made her redo and edit her essays that she submitted to both colleges and to the Presidential Scholar program.

"Yeah, I have senioritis, but he helped me to not take my eyes off the prize," Ladd said.

Teare, who is the director of college counseling at Antilles School, said that he felt it was his job to challenge Ladd, though she knows that she is fully capable of anything she sets her mind to.

"Taylor to me has been the epitome of being bright, artistic, athletic and extremely competitive," Teare said.

Ladd's long list of activities that she is involved in are evidence of her commitment to her education and community.

Ladd is a member of the National Honor Society and is a peer mentor at school. She also is on the school's sailing team and teaches sailing to youth aged 5 to 12.

Ladd, who moved to the Virgin Islands when she was 7 years old, has been sailing since. She did not enjoy it initially and took a break before getting back into it when she was 12, after which she excelled at it and it became her true passion.

"I would love to sail through Europe," she said.

For the time being, Ladd said she is looking forward to her upcoming all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she and the other presidential scholars will be honored with medallions for their accomplishments. She will be there from June 22-25.

"You get a kid of Taylor's ability, and the sky is the limit," Teare said.

Of the three million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 3,900 candidates qualified for the 2014 awards based on their performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams and through nominations made by chief state school officers or the National YoungArts Foundation's nationwide YoungArts competition, the U.S. Department of Education website said.

The 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars comprise one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

Department officials could not be reached Wednesday to comment on when the territory had its last Presidential Scholar, though Antilles School staff said that Ladd is the third student from the territory to be honored in that capacity.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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