First Lady Katie O'Malley Delivers Keynote Address to Maryland's Distinguished Scholars

Joins Higher Education Commission Secretary in Honoring Maryland’s Top Students  

ANNAPOLIS, MD (September 6, 2008) – First Lady Katie O’Malley today delivered the keynote address and honored 800 of Maryland’s best and brightest high school students at the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s (MHEC) Maryland Distinguished Scholar Recognition Day at Bowie State University.  Joined by MHEC Secretary James E. Lyons, First Lady O’Malley congratulated each student on their academic achievements and their talent in the arts.

“I want to congratulate all of Maryland’s Distinguished Scholars on your incredible achievements. Today, we are here to celebrate your work, your dedication, and your pursuit of better things for yourselves and for the people around you,” said First Lady O’Malley in her remarks.  “Maryland has a proud tradition of leading our nation in education – a tradition that continues to this day, and a tradition that you have helped to uphold in all that you’ve done. Looking around, seeing your faces today, I am taken aback a little bit by the possibilities that lie ahead of you.”

Hundreds of students and their families, and representatives from Maryland’s public and independent two-and four-year colleges and universities attended and participated in the day long event, which also featured a college fair, a performing arts showcase, which included dance, instrumental music, vocal music and drama, performed by students from various Maryland high schools, and an exhibit of visual artwork. Seven-hundred students participated in the Talent in the Arts Competition, featuring dance, drama, instrumental music, vocal music or visual arts. Students auditioned before a panel of judges who are professionals in their respective fields. Seventy-eight students were selected as finalists, 50 as semi-finalists and 572 as honorable mention students.

“This is a day when some of the finest students in the State get to showcase their talent and receive recognition for achieving great success in the classroom,” Secretary Lyons said. “Having the First Lady, a strong advocate of education at all levels and the arts, as our keynote speaker was something special.”

The Maryland Distinguished Scholar Program honors Maryland high school juniors for superior academic achievement, for exceptional talent in the arts, or for achieving finalist status in the National Merit/National Achievement Scholarship Program. Students earning Distinguished Scholar Program Scholarships attend Maryland colleges or universities. The award amount is $3,000 per year and is renewable three times for a total value of $12,000. Three hundred-fifty new scholarships are awarded annually to Maryland residents.

In the academic achievement category, students are evaluated by their cumulative unweighted grade point average (GPA) in academic courses and by their SAT, PSAT or ACT scores. Students are then selected in rank order and identified as Maryland Distinguished Scholar finalists, semifinalists or honorable mention students. For the 2008-2009 academic year, more than 4,000 students applied in the academic achievement category. Approximately 296 students were selected as finalists, 413 as semifinalists and 3,700 as honorable mention students.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission is a 12-member coordinating board responsible for establishing statewide policies for Maryland public and independent colleges and universities and private career schools. It serves as an advocate for more than 326,000 college students in Maryland, for the State and its needs, and for business and industry in Maryland.

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