YoungArts—Scholars in the Arts nominees announced

National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) has announced the nominees for the 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence. YoungArts is the sole nominating agency for this high honor and the 60 candidates, representing 16 states and nine artistic disciplines, are all YoungArts Winners. The students have been nominated to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program for their artistic achievement on the heels of the organization’s annual signature program, National YoungArts Week, which concluded in Miami on January 12.

The candidate applications — all YoungArts award winners — will be reviewed by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, which will ultimately select 20 high school seniors to be recognized as U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts for their academic and artistic accomplishments, demonstrated leadership, community service and outreach initiatives, and overall creativity.

In June, the 20 arts scholars will join the other 141 U.S. Presidential Scholars from across the country in Washington, D.C. for the National Recognition Program. During the program, all scholars receive a Presidential Medallion presented on behalf of the President of the United States and participate in several recognition activities while in Washington, D.C. The 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts will present their work at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through a special exhibition and a performance. 

“National YoungArts Foundation is honored to submit this year’s 60 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts nominees to the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars,” said Sarah Arison, YoungArts Board Chair. “We are proud to continue partnering with the Department of Education to acknowledge our nation’s most accomplished artists graduating from high school each year and to honor the sublime artistry and talent of each of the 2020 nominees, who have shown leadership and skill in their respective disciplines. We look forward to announcing the selected arts scholars this spring, and to seeing what all the nominees achieve as they move forward.”

Sarah Arison, YoungArts Board Chair.

The full list of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts nominees can be viewed here.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts nominees are actors, dancers, singers, classical musicians, photographers, filmmakers, visual artists, designers and writers. Once selected, the 2020 awardees will join an illustrious group of YoungArts and U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts alumni including Tony Award-nominated performer and choreographer Desmond Richardson; Los Angeles Music Center President Rachel S. Moore; novelist and National Book Award Finalist Allegra Goodman; Grammy Award-nominated violinist Jennifer Koh; Tony Award-winning actor Santino Fontana; and RCA Records award-winning singer-songwriter and Grammy Award-nominated artist Chris Young.  

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and details regarding the National Recognition Program will be announced in the coming months. For additional information, please visit:

The first step to becoming a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts is to apply to National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts), which is the nominating agency for this honor. To be eligible for the YoungArts program, applicants must be 15–18 years old or in high school grades 10–12. To be further considered for a nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, applicants must be high school seniors and meet all of the U.S. Presidential Scholars requirements. 

YoungArts winners demonstrating excellence in the visual, literary and performing arts are selected annually through a blind adjudication process. This year, 686 YoungArts winners were selected. In January, approximately 153 Finalists from across the nation were invited to National YoungArts Week in Miami, where they participated in a week of intensive master classes and workshops with internationally renowned artists, and shared their work through performances, readings, exhibitions and screenings that were open to the public. 

During National YoungArts Week, eligible participants are further evaluated, award levels are determined, and nominations are made for that year’s U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts candidates. After a rigorous selection process, YoungArts nominates 60 candidates for an invitation to apply to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Finally, the Commission on Presidential Scholars selects 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts each year.  

In 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established by executive order of President Lyndon B. Johnson to recognize and honor the nation’s top graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrated talent in the visual, creative and performing arts.  In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

Scholars are selected annually by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by the President, based on academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities, and writing ability. This year, over 5,000 candidates qualified for the 2020 program determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, through nominations made by Chief State School Officers, or other partner recognition programs or the National YoungArts Foundation. 

Since its inception, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored more than 7,500 of the nation’s high-performing students. During the National Recognition Program, scholars are flown to D.C. to receive a Presidential Medallion, which is given to honorees during the annual ceremony in Washington, D.C.  

The 161  2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of 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, 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education. 

About National YoungArts Foundation 
National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) was established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison. YoungArts identifies the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary and performing arts, and provides them with creative and professional development opportunities throughout their careers. 

Entrance into this prestigious organization starts with a highly competitive application process for talented artists ages 15–18, or grades 10-12, in the United States, that is judged by esteemed discipline-specific panels of artists through a rigorous blind adjudication process. In their first year, YoungArts winners, who represent the top 10% of applicants, receive valuable financial awards of up to $10,000; presentation opportunities at renowned institutions; and the chance to learn from notable artists and mentors such as Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Frank Gehry, Wynton Marsalis, Salman Rushdie and Mickalene Thomas in intimate settings. 

YoungArts winners are further eligible for exclusive opportunities including: nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students; a wide range of fellowships, residencies and awards; presentation opportunities at major venues nationwide; additional financial support; and access to YoungArts Post, a free, private digital network for YoungArts artists to connect, collaborate and learn about additional opportunities. YoungArts alumni include accomplished leaders in their fields such as Daniel Arsham, Terence Blanchard, Camille A. Brown, Viola Davis, Allegra Goodman, Josh Groban, Judith Hill, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Andrew Rannells, Desmond Richardson and Hunter Schafer. 



Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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