A Memphis senior is headed to Vanderbilt University in the fall, but first, she will make a stop at the White House.
Rachel Fan was one of two Tennessee students named U.S. Presidential Scholars this week, a designation given by the U.S. Department of Education to 161 students across the country based on their test scores and extracurricular activities.
Chapman Finn, a senior at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tenn., was also chosen.
Fan, 18, is the first student from Shelby County Schools selected since 2013. The White Station High School senior said she and her family plan to attend the awards ceremony at the White House in June.
“I was really excited when I got the email,” Fan said. “The first thing I did was take a screenshot and send it to my dad, who sent me back an emoji of confetti.”
She’s spent her whole academic career in Memphis public schools, and said a gifted-and-talented program at Grahamwood Elementary School, called CLUE, helped stretch her as a student early on.
“CLUE was more project-based and we got to go on many school trips,” Fan said. “It showed me that learning could be done in a different way, and made school more engaging and challenging.”
As a high schooler, Rachel scored a perfect 36 on her ACT, was named as a National Merit Scholar, and has taken 17 Advanced Placement courses. She also helped start a “TED-Ed” program at White Station. Modeled after TEDx, the program gives students a platform to speak to an audience about topics that resonate with them.
“White Station is such a big school, and it’s been pretty incredible to meet students from so many different backgrounds,” she said. “That’s made an impact on me, and the TED-Ed program was a way to celebrate how unique of a place our school is.”
Fan received the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship at Vanderbilt, where she plans to study health, public policy, or both.
The 161 award winners were chosen from more than 5,200 nominatees, according to the Department of Education. The program has been doling out awards since 1964.