Michael Girouard is no stranger to academic awards.

He’s won a Michael Welch scholarship at St. Dominic Regional High School in Auburn. The Principal’s Award from the Maine Principals’ Association. A Tyng Scholarship, the most prestigious award given to an incoming student at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Still, the 18-year-old St. Dom’s senior didn’t think he really had a chance at becoming a Presidential Scholar. It was an illustrious award and the competition was fierce. Only one boy from Maine would be chosen.

“Reading some of the information they sent, ‘This is the highest honor the Department of Education gives to a high school senior,’ I thought it might be sort of a stretch (for me),” Girouard said.

It turned out it wasn’t a stretch at all.

On Monday, Girouard was named a Presidential Scholar.

“I’m just really honored to get this award,” he said. “I know it is sort of a big deal.”

More than 3,000 students were invited to apply to become Presidential Scholars, chosen on the basis of their SAT scores. On his SATs, Girouard earned a score of 2,260 out of a possible 2,400. He also earned perfect scores on chemistry and math SATs and a near-perfect score on a history SAT.

After they qualified, students had to complete a rigorous application packet, submitting letters of recommendation and essay questions designed to gauge everything from students’ personal perseverance to their community service contributions to their engagement in the arts.

Girouard, who lives in Lewiston, didn’t have trouble proving his ties to the community or his school. He’s a volunteer with EqualityMaine, a tutor, a cantor during Mass at his Catholic high school and a member of several school clubs and community theater groups. Academically, he is a top student at St. Dom’s.

When asked about a challenge he faced as a child, Girouard wrote one of his most emotional essays. He talked about taking care of his younger brother and sister while his mother went through cancer treatments.

“That was really touching to me and important,” he said.

Of the more than 3,000 students eligible to apply, 560 became semifinalists. Six of them were from Maine.

In the end, 141 students were chosen as Presidential Scholars, with one boy and one girl from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

In Maine, Girouard and Erin Mills, a student at Brewer High School, were chosen.

Winners don’t get scholarship money. Instead, they receive a trip to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with politicians, artists and others. They will also be honored at the White House.

Girouard’s biggest hope: that he’ll get to meet President Barack Obama.

In his application, Girouard was asked to choose a teacher who had influenced him most. He chose Peggy DeBlois, who taught his English class in seventh, eighth and 12th grades.

“She’s really helped me progress and seen me progress, especially in English, which isn’t my strongest subject,” he said. “She made me such a better reader, writer and thinker, and so I’m really grateful to her for that.”

As Girouard’s chosen teacher, DeBlois also wins a trip to Washington, D.C. She will accompany him in June, when she will receive a Teacher Recognition Award.

DeBlois was shocked when Girouard told her Monday.

“He’s such a remarkable student that any time he wins an award it doesn’t really surprise me because he’s very deserving. So that is not the surprising part at all,” she said. But that he had chosen her to honor? “I had absolutely no idea.”

Girouard, whose favorite subjects are French, biology and calculus, plans to study biology at Williams College in the fall. He plans to become an ophthalmologist or a medical researcher.


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