South Dakota Presidential Scholar reflects on big achievement

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TEA, S.D. - Jaelyn Kae Morehead is a senior at Tea Area High School. She was recognized as as a U.S. Presidential Scholar Tuesday morning. Her school counselor had to send in some things on her behalf.

"It was around eight essays I had to complete, asking questions about the students about the school about the community," Kara Spieler said. "The students had to do their part as well, and I know that was pretty labor intensive. Mine took about four hours per student, and after that we were notified that Jaelyn made it on to the semi-finals and today, we found out she qualified as the Presidential Scholar and that is pretty exciting."

Morehead said she couldn't believe she was selected for it. One boy and one girl from each state earn the honor. Alan Zhu of Rapid City-Stevens High School was the other student honored in South Dakota.

"Only two kids in the state get it. Honestly, I didn't know how to react when I first got it because I didn't think in a thousand years I would ever be selected for it," Morehead said.

"She's a great writer. She expresses herself really, really well. But her ability to think critically and analytically about issues and concepts really sets her apart from a lot of these students," Ryan Decker said. He is Morehead's science teacher.

"I first found out- I didn't believe it at first. My mom had to tell me that yeah you got it, and I could not believe it," Morehead said.

"It is very prestigious, very exclusive; just representing the best students and biggest and brightest spots of our future, not of the state but for the nation," Decker said.

"I hope that everybody, who sees this, all the younger kids take no matter what school you are from, no matter how many kids you have in school, as long as you apply yourself, as long as you work hard and you stay dedicated with your academics, you can excel in anything to have been selected out of South Dakota, and we have so many intelligent and accomplished students here. It really was inspiring kind of," Morehead said.

"I can't think of anyone more deserving," Decker said.

The Presidential Scholar Program was created in 1964. A total of 161 high school seniors across the United States were named scholars.