If you talk to Iowa City West High School senior Andrew Dong about his accomplishments as a student, you’ll quickly realize there are too many to list.

Andrew, 18, was recently named as one of Iowa’s two U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2024, which honors top students from across the country for outstanding achievements in academics, the arts and career and technical education. The U.S. Presidential Scholars program is one of the highest honors a high school senior can attain, and only 161 students maximum are selected for recognition each year.

“I remember looking up to another student who was named as a scholar two years ago,” Andrew said. “I hope my turn as a U.S. Presidential Scholar will be an inspiration to younger kids as well.”

Other West High students certainly have their pick of Andrew’s outstanding achievements to appreciate as he has excelled in academics, sports, music, volunteering and leadership, among others.

He will end his academic career with a 4.52 GPA and enrollment in several AP classes, including biology, macroeconomics, U.S. history, human geography, computer science and more.

“My favorite class was AP statistics,” he said. “I like that you can apply it to real-world scenarios and see how to perform statistical evaluations in technical areas. It’s a good skill to have going forward.”

Additionally, Andrew is an accomplished violinist, qualifying three times for the Iowa All-State Orchestra. He has competed in the state competition for cross country and was West High’s first public forum debate state champion. He also was selected to participate in the prestigious United States Senate Youth Program in 2023 and is currently a National Merit Scholar and Coca-Cola Scholar. Andrew was also recently honored by the Iowa Governor’s Scholar Program as one of the top students in the state.

Along with his other achievements, Andrew has demonstrated strong leadership skills and a commitment to serving his local community. He founded and led West High’s first American Red Cross Club, which grew to over 90 members. For the group’s efforts, they were awarded the 2022 Outstanding American Red Cross Club of the Year for organizing blood drives that saved more than 300 lives.

“This was my first experience being a leader,” he said. “I don’t think I truly knew what it meant to be a leader before this, but I was able to develop my leadership skills through this experience. I went through the process of learning what it means to be a service-centered leader and now have a strong understanding of how I can apply these skills to other areas of my life.”

Mental health and medical emergency response have also been passion projects for Andrew while in high school. He recently obtained his National Recognition Emergency Medical Technician (NREMT) certification and has completed an internship with a 911 dispatch office. Andrew has also served on the Board of Advisors for the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health and has worked at the VA Hospital and a local retirement home.

“When I look back at my high school experience, my work at the retirement home is where everything started for me,” he said. “I’ve volunteered and worked there for the past three years, and the experience has been significant. It has definitely influenced my choices to work and care about people.”

After graduation on June 2, Andrew plans to attend Harvard University in the fall and pursue studies in linguistics and government affairs. He potentially sees his future career helping people as a federal lawmaker and emphasizing mental health care.

Andrew will leave West High as one of their most outstanding students. His advice for success to other students at the school and across the state is to take advantage of their opportunities and be authentic.

“Take initiative in life and find the interests that make you happy,” he said. “There are many ways to reach your goals. Don’t just do the same activities or fall in line with what has worked in the past or has won someone an award. The true way to stand out is to have initiative and find a specific area that matters to you. That’s how you can have impact. That’s what makes you successful.”

*Ames High School senior Sarah Park was also recognized as a 2024 U.S. Presidential Scholar for Iowa.