Adrian Kwiatkowski of Mesa is among 161 students nationwide to be recognized with the “highest level of student recognition in the country” — the U.S. Presidential Scholar award.
The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars took note of the Red Mountain High School senior’s youth leadership efforts in Arizona over the last four years and his undeniable skills in biotechnology.
The U.S. Presidential Scholars program highlights accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields — only 7,500 students have been awarded with the recognition since the program’s inception in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Adrian, who graduated with a 5.0 weighted GPA and class ranking of 2 out of 730, said he was ecstatic to find his acceptance letter in the mail from the United States Department of Education.
“I was really, really excited. It was mindblowing because the process is already very selective,” he said. “Although I was confident in my application and in what I had done through these last four years of high school, the competition was very tough.”
Growing up in Mesa, Adrian said he always had a passion for school.
He was able to see the value in schoolwork and education from a very young age, he added.
“I think, naturally, I was very attentive to my schoolwork and I valued everything that teachers gave me,” the teen explained. “Whereas I think other people saw it as work or something you had to get rid of so you could have more free time.”
“I saw academics as something that would give me opportunities and build those skill sets,” he added.
Throughout his educational career, Adrian was a secretary for the French Club, a math tutor and the Arizona State President for HOSA – Future Health Professionals, among other things.
HOSA, formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America, is an international student organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Health Science Education Division of Association for Career and Technical Education.
The organization’s two-fold mission is to promote career opportunities in the health care industry while enhancing the delivery of quality health care to all, according to its website.
“I was involved with HOSA — Future Health Professionals my sophomore year. They hold statewide and international conferences and it’s catered toward students that want to get involved in the healthcare field,” said Adrian, adding:
“I competed in biomedical lab science at the state level and ended up qualifying for the international level — that was sort of when I got a grasp of the community that hosts it and how great it is.”
Adrian said he was then inspired to climb the “leadership ladder” within the organization.
During his junior year, he ran for the HOSA state office, where he was later named the Arizona branch president.
The AP student also had the ability to nurture his passions for science and biology while working as a student researcher at the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute.
Adrian had the opportunity to explore the roles of microRNAs and Y RNAs in induced pluripotent stem cells in microscopic worms. Pluripotent stem cells hold immense promise for regenerative medicine due to their self-renewal and potential for differentiation.
He said that he was grateful for the support he received during his time there — especially at such a young age.
“It obviously helped develop my skill sets and allowed me to perform research,” he said. “But for the most part, being a part of a community that is passionate about research and understands the difficulties that come with it, is life-changing.”
“Especially being a high school student researcher. You’re sort of undervalued as a high school student sometimes. When in reality, some of the research we’re doing is undergraduate and graduate research.”
Adrian will be honored for his accomplishments alongside the other scholars at the White House in Washington, D.C. from June 23 – 25.
The scholar said he is looking forward to his trip to the nation’s capital, and that he hopes to network with a variety of politicians during his stay.
“I’m so excited to meet all of these people in the legislative process that are changing the world and how we view the world,” said Adrian. “It’s also a great honor to meet the president of the United States and to be awarded something so huge.”
Adrian will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall, and said he hopes to continue pursuing biological sciences with the dream of becoming an independent researcher.