Young, Gifted & Black Series
By Taki S. Raton
YG&B is particularly proud in this week’s writing as our selection is one of our own whose accomplishments have placed her among the nation’s top high school academic achievers among the best of the very best.
She is young, gifted & Black. Alethia Tilford was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar as announced by the Department of Education on May 5, 2015.
This young Milwaukeean is a senior at Ronald Reagan College Prep and upon graduation will attend Howard University in the fall.
According to a Milwaukee Public School (MPS) press release, only 141 students from around the country are selected for this award considered to be the nation’s highest honor for graduating high school seniors.
Alethia is one of only two winners from Wisconsin and the only awardee from the Milwaukee area.
The other Wisconsin winner is Nicholas Ngo of De Pere High School in De Pere, Wisconsin.
“I was jumping up and down and screaming.
The house was shaking because I made it,” as reported by Michelle McCormack in 58WDJT Milwaukee.
Of the nation’s 3.3 million graduating seniors, cites an MPS update, about 4,300 candidates qualified for the 2015 awards as determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by the Chief State School officers or the National YoungArts Foundation’s Nationwide YoungArts competition.
Alethia was named in April as one of the 565 students nationwide identified as a semifinalist by an independent national committee of educators as noted by MPS.
The Commission on Presidential Scholars selected the final 141 students across the country who will receive the award.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver said of the senior then named as a semifinalist that “We are honored that Alethia Tilford continues to represent Reagan and Milwaukee Public Schools as an outstanding scholar,” she said.
“Thank you Alethia and her family as well as all of the educators and support staff in MPS who have helped her grow to become the impressive young woman that she is.
Alethia is an example of what MPS students can achieve as they strive for excellence each and every day,” she adds.
Alethia eight months earlier on September 25, 2015 in the State Capitol Rotunda in Madison earned the honor of introducing Dr. Tony Evers, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction for delivery of his annual State of Education Address.
The Reagan senior was one of only two students from across the state invited to this event.
She was further recognized on this occasion by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors and then MPS Acting Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver with the MPS Excellence in Education Award for her accomplishments to include recognition of her academic record, participation in extracurricular and athletic activities and for her participation in the Badger Girls State, a prestigious leadership development program for young women.
Regan Principal Mike Roemer said of her recognition that he and the school are “proud of Alethia. She is a shining example of high performance and student leadership.
Alethia is persistently seeking ways to challenge herself. She is a person of outstanding character who had dedicated her young life to humbly serving those around her.”
Alethia said of this experience that “I’m grateful for the opportunity and honored to be able to introduce the state superintendent.”
As cited by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by executive order of the President to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrated exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, upwards of 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars.
MPS reveals of the selection process that the candidates are asked to complete an application that included essays, self-assessments, secondary school reports and transcripts.
Alethia in one of her essays named Stacy Knetter, an eight-year MPS teacher of the International Baccalaureate biology course at Reagan, as the most influential teacher in her educational career.
“I’m very flattered,” Knetter said in 58WDJT. “I was humbled that I made such an impact on her life, she adds.
Knetter will receive a Teacher Recognition Award from the Department of Education, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, as noted in a MPS May 4, 2015 posting.
Alethia will join the other 140 nationally recognized seniors in Washington, D.C. later this month from June 21 through the 23 to receive their Presidential Scholars medal.
Her plans, as stated, are to attend the renowned and highly regarded HBCU Howard University and major in Communications and Spanish.
She has received a full tuition scholarship from the Washington, D.C. institution.
Prior to this final selection, Alethia had at first considered UW-Madison, Carleton College and Milwaukee’s Marquette University.
“I selected Howard University because of the campus and the need to be around African Americans who were doing just as well as me,” she said in a brief email interview.
“I love Howard’s campus and most importantly, I felt comfortable there.
Plus, Howard is in D.C. right next to the White House and the State Department of Education. My goal is to become the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Wisconsin,” she adds.
The senior recalls that when she found out that she was a Presidential Scholar, “I was in amazement, like my whole body felt liberated from a weight that I have been carrying on my shoulders since I was in seventh grade.”
She adds in the interview that “since I was in seventh grade, I always felt like I had to get good grades.
But now, it feels like I did it for more than just myself, but also for my community.”
Alethia was among the 11 Milwaukee select invited seniors and nine parent chaperons who joined us on the road trip to the 100 Black Men Chicago Chapter Eighth Annual Honors Student Reception (HSR) on Friday, October 10, 2014 held at the University of Illinois UIC Forum in Chicago.
This was the sixth consecutive year since 2009 that high achieving top ranking Milwaukee and statewide district seniors have been invited to attend this event.
The HSR invitational is specifically designed for African American seniors who have a minimum grade point average of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale and a 23 or above cumulative scoring on the ACT exam.
Alethia has an overall GPA of 4.0 and a 24 cum on her ACT.
The purpose of this occasion is for seniors to explore college admissions and scholarship prospects from the college campus representatives present who were eager to speak to and attract top-of-the-line scholastically achieved African American students to their institutions.
Howard University was among the 42 campuses represented at the UIC Forum.
But at that time, Alethia broadened her attention to all of her possible prospects.
But we are glad that in her final selection upon visiting the campus, she finally chooses Howard.
In a TMJ4 May 5, 2015 posting, she said that she learned one very important lesson from this whole process.
“There are people watching in higher places all the time.
That’s what I learned. You never know who’s looking at you.
You never know who nominated you or who’s putting your name out there.”
Her advice to African American students who plan to attend college is to “go where you want to go and where it is most affordable.
There is no reason to attend a private school to get a psychology degree when you could have attended a state school for the same degree for less.”