Artful Medals: Two Dallas Students Honored as 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts

Zariyah Perry and Cole Willis—both students at Dallas' Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts—are among the 20 high school seniors across the U.S. to be named U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts for 2023.

Today the U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, announced the 59th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields. Two of the awarded scholars are from North Texas—and both attend the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in downtown Dallas.

Of the 161 high school students honored this year, 20 were named U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts—which means that the Dallas arts magnet school alone accounted for 10% of those 2023 medals.

Booker T’s Zariyah Perry and Cole Willis are named Presidential Scholars in the Arts

Zariyah Perry and Cole Willis of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts have been named U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. [Photo: YoungArts]

Booker T. Washington High School students Zariyah Perry and Cole Willis (above) are among this year’s U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. Perry is a theater student at the school; Willis is a film student.

To select the honorees, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.

Of the 3.7 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,000 candidates qualified for the 2023 awards based on their outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations, and YoungArts, the National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists.

“The 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts represent the next generation of storytellers and changemakers in our country, exemplifying both academic excellence and artistic ingenuity spanning the visual, literary, and performing arts,” Clive Chang, President of YoungArts, said in a statement. “YoungArts is incredibly proud to celebrate these young artists today and to amplify their unique voices as they grow to become our nation’s most influential cultural ambassadors.”

Perry and Willis are the only North Texas students to be named Presidential Scholars this year. Three other Texas students were also named among the 161 honorees, honored for their accomplishments in academics: Hannah Guan, a student at the BASIS San Antonio Shavano Campus in San Antonio; and Zhuo Qi Chen and Siddhu Pachipala, who are both students at The Woodlands College Park High School in The Woodlands.

Applications open in June for 2024 awards

The U.S. Presidential Scholars award—one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic excellence, leadership qualities, and community service—is presented on behalf of the President of the United States and honors up to 161 graduating high school seniors of high potential each year, YoungArts said. Students who would like to be considered for U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts must be YoungArts award winners. Applications for the 2024 YoungArts competition will open on June 6, 2023 at

Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.

Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.

One quick signup, and you’re done.

R E A D   N E X T

  • Aiming to forge "a new path for excellence, innovation, and growth in the arts," UT Dallas is merging two schools into one larger School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology. The combined school will give the university a strong, single academic presence for the arts while taking advantage of UTD’s future arts and performance complex, the $158 million Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr. Athenaeum. The school's inaugural dean, Dr. Nils Roemer, says the move will "make a statement to the entire country about our commitment to arts, humanities, and technology."

  • To celebrate Dallas Arts Month, the Omni Dallas Hotel is displaying 16 animations by UTD Projection Mapping Lab students on select nights through the end of the April, from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.

  • Activate Games says it offers "the next level in entertainment, fitness, and gaming." Its six locations in Canada and the U.S. have up to 11 rooms with laser mazes, touch-activated climbing walls, arcade-style target walls, light-flashing basketball hoops, and more—with your score tracked by an RFID bracelet. You can "put your brain and body to the test" when the new Plano location opens by as soon as the end of this year.

  • Hockaday School Names New Eugene McDermott Head of School

    Dr. Laura Leathers has been named the next Eugene McDermott Head of School at the Hockaday School in Dallas, effective Jan. 1. Leathers currently is interim head of school for the 109-year-old institution. Previously, Leathers served as Hockaday's assistant head of school for academic affairs. "We are thrilled to name Dr. Leathers as the next Head of School," Nicole Ginsburg Small, chair of the Hockaday board of trustees, said in a statement. "I believe Laura is truly the best of both worlds. She is both an innovative thinker with a long and impressive career as an educator and administrator, as…

  • The AI Bootcamp will target underserved high school students in the ninth through 12th grades and will introduce them to basic AI concepts and skills, the foundation said. Students will learn what AI is and is not, where they already interact with AI in their own lives, and the ethical implications of AI systems including but not limited to TikTok recommendations, smart home assistants, facial recognition, and self-driving cars, among others.