Kalii Caldwell, a 2019 graduate of Ogden High School, recently traveled to Washington with her family to be honored as a Presidential Scholar, one of only 161 students across the country who were selected for the award.
The purpose of the U.S. Presidential Scholars program is to recognize “some of our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors,” according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.
“It’s really humbling to be around such accomplished people,” Caldwell said. “Many of them have not only accomplished a lot, but they’ve overcome huge adversity ... I am so so honored to have been even considered for that opportunity.”
Caldwell received the award at a ceremony in Washington sponsored by the White House on June 23. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos presented Caldwell with her medallion.
In addition to receiving this recognition, Presidential Scholars had the chance to meet with national and international leaders in several fields. Caldwell and her family met Sen. Mitt Romney. She and other Presidential Scholars also met Sen. Mike Lee.
Presidential Scholars also get to know their fellow scholars from across the country.
The students stayed together in Washington and were divided into groups with advisors. Caldwell’s group included the two other Presidential Scholars from Utah and the scholars from Colorado.
“I became really close with my roommate and the other scholars from Utah as well as Colorado,” Caldwell said.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I got there,” she continued. “It wasn’t about everyone’s accomplishments ... it was about friendship, and we’re all here together, and we are all experiencing this, and it was a lot more human than I had initially anticipated ... so it was really great to see that there were people of that caliber, and they’re still people.”
She was also glad to represent Ogden High, where she participated in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, because she said there are many misconceptions about the school in the broader community.
“I know a lot of friends or classmates who had decided to go elsewhere because there’s a misconception that Ogden High ... isn’t as good as other schools in the state or around the area,” Caldwell said.
“I’m not really sure why that misconception exists,” Caldwell continued. “Having gone there for three years and been in student government every year, I know that this school is really personal and hands-on, and they really care about every student there ... the huge support system at Ogden High really helped me in my education to push and challenge myself.”
She said that there were many options at Ogden High, so everyone could get what they wanted out of their high school experience.
If money were no object and Caldwell could have chosen to go anywhere to high school, she said she’d still choose Ogden.
With her experience at Ogden under her belt, Caldwell will be heading to University of San Francisco, a private, Jesuit university, in the fall, where she will be running track and cross country. Her scholarship package includes $50,000 a year, which will cover all of her tuition. She will be responsible for some of her room and board expenses.
Her dad, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, said he doesn’t think she would have been competitive for the Presidential Scholars award without Ogden High School’s IB program, which he and a group of other parents worked to start about a decade ago.
The group of parents were concerned because they saw families leaving the district and going to schools with IB programs, so they approached Ogden School District about starting one.
The IB program is an international program where students take a certain number of IB courses, comparable to AP courses, and earn IB credit if they pass end-of-course exams. Many universities award college credit for IB exam scores. If IB students earn a certain number of IB credits, they qualify for an IB Diploma, which is an internationally recognized credential.
“(Ogden School District has) had some great success with that program ... it’s a great option for kids in the Ogden School District that want to stay in Ogden and have a lot of academic rigor,” Caldwell said.