Hutchison's Caroline Orr Travels to Washington as Presidential Scholar

Hutchison senior Caroline Orr is headed to Washington, D.C., this weekend as part of the 2012 class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. Orr was one of 141 teens nationally to receive the award (three students were selected from Tennessee), which recognizes graduating seniors who have achieved excellence in academics or the arts.

It is one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.

Caroline distinguished herself as a leader while at Hutchison by starting a Global Ambassadors program, and selling her artwork to raise money for children in Tanzania. Her honors include: the 2011 Princeton Prize in Race Relations, AP Scholar of Distinction, The Commercial Appeal C Spire Academic All-Star Overall Winner in General Scholarship, and National Merit finalist. Caroline plans to study at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill under the Morehead-Cain Scholarship.

On Saturday, June 16th, honorees from across the country will gather as part of  National Recognition Weekend. The students will receive the Presidential Scholar Medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House and attend a meet-and-greet with President Obama. 

Students also invite their most inspiring teacher to attend the ceremony and receive an award. Caroline chose English teacher Hadley Hury, who will receive the Teacher Recognition Award from the Department of Education. As Caroline prepared for the trip, she learned of more good news: she is one of 12 Presidential Scholars selected to travel to China with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. The group leaves for China later this month. We spoke with Caroline about the honor.

What made you a strong candidate for the Presidential Scholar award? I founded a Global Ambassadors program and served as president of Hutchison's Cum Laude Honor Society. I paint and sold some of my pictures to raise money to feed school children in Tanzania. I also play tennis, and my partner, Maggie Leavell, and I have twice won the Division 2 AA State Doubles Championship.

What is on your itinerary while in Washington? I'll be doing in a service project that involves teaching and working with inner-city kids. We will attend a symposium to meet and learn from congressional members as well as meet with the president. I'm not sure what I'll say, but it's important to be respectful and gracious.

What will your focus be in China? We'll travel with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Once there, I'll live with a Chinese host family for two weeks. Our group will meet with government officials in China and learn about the country's culture, history, literature, and art.

What did you hope to achieve with the Global Ambassador program? Our goal was to create an organization that would build interest, passion, curiosity, and understanding of the U.S. role in global society. Students learn about global issues and make a plan for impactful service projects. I used my art skills as a tool to raise money and awareness of Tanzania. I painted pictures of children and sold my art at two art shows. We raised $15,000, enough money to feed a village of school children for two years. Just $15 will feed a child lunch for a year. This summer, rising seniors go to Peru to work with women who weave as part of a micro-financing project to help them increase capital they have to invest. We are also helping to build greenhouses there so that women can grow plants to use in dyes for weaving. We are empowering women in Third-World countries to become more financially independent and leaders in their communities.

Who is your mentor? My inspiration is Caroline Blatti, director of Hutchison Leads, a student internship program. She encourages people to go after things that they thought were impossible.

Were you always a go-getter? I've always had drive and determination. I love art, service, travel, and personal connections with people. I look forward to immersing myself in new things at college. I love writing and may try an inter-disciplinary track that combines journalism and public health. I hope to one day work for UNICEF or the World Health Organization.

Learn more about the U.S. Presidential Scholars application process here.


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