By DAISY BURTON
The Presidential Scholars are a group of honor students at Amarillo College who participate in enrichment activities, community service and volunteer work around the globe.
“Our little motto is ‘research, travel and service,’” Lesley Ingham, honors program chair, said. “I would call the overarching theme of the program ‘leadership and development.’”
The Presidential Scholars program is intended to reward diligent students with new cultural experiences, personal fulfillment and special opportunities for networking.
“Our students are future leaders,” Ingham said. “They need to have their eyes opened to the possibilities around the world and realize that the world isn’t so huge after all.”
This year, the scholars plan to volunteer in Cape Town, South Africa. “We’re going to be working with youth,” Ingham said. “We’re going to be working with victims of domestic violence. We’re going to hopefully spread awareness and to help with some education and some social media training.”
The Presidential Scholars also volunteer around the Amarillo community. “It looks like we will probably do Ukraine Bakery, that’s the one we have at the top right now,” said Erica Valdez, a dental hygiene major.
The application process for the Presidential Scholars begins the spring before a student’s first fall semester. The program mostly accepts incoming students who have recently graduated high school, but there are a few exceptions, Ingham said.
Students who join Presidential Scholars may find a larger sense of community at AC. “It’s my first year here, and in all my other classes we don’t really have time to make friends or start conversations, but in this class, I’ve been able to make friends, get more invested into the college and help people,” Valdez said.
Being a part of Presidential Scholars has also helped many of its former members while they continued their studies. “I was actually in the honors program at West Texas A&M University, I think that that experience definitely helped me get involved in things that made my experience here better,” Stevi Breshears, Panhandle PBS digital communications coordinator and former Presidential Scholar, said.
In addition to community-building, the Presidential Scholars program aims to teach students skills they will use after they graduate and begin their careers. “We want them to know that they have a place in this world and that they can make a difference,” Ingham said. “We want them to develop their communication skills, public speaking, interpersonal, all those soft skills that help make you succeed.”