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SHS's Maxwell Booker Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

maxwell booker

As senior Maxwell Booker prepared to take his last Advanced Placement exam on campus this morning, he opened his email to find life-changing news: He is the first African American student in Spartanburg High School history to be named a U.S. Presidential Scholar. 

With a stellar academic record and a well-rounded resume of accolades spanning from school to community to national summer programs, Maxwell Booker has already earned an impressive array of distinctions. His academic achievements include a 5.4 GPA and earning the top score of a 5 on six of the seven AP courses he took through his junior year (with scores on six more senior AP exams to come). He was accepted by all six Ivy League universities to which he applied, and received scholarships from a host of other prestigious universities from Duke to Vanderbilt to Alabama, among others. This fall, he will join Harvard University’s freshman class. Earlier this year, he was selected as SHS's Heisman High School Scholar and earlier this week, he was named a National Merit Scholarship recipient – clearly a highlight of his career.

But the one accolade he coveted most ­and was still waiting with hopeful anticipation for was U.S. Presidential Scholar. It is the one in which he blazes a new trail that demonstrates to the children and youth in his community that an African American student from their own schools can earn a spot among the most highly respected group of scholars in our nation – inspiring them to believe in such accomplishment for themselves. 

Maxwell is one of three South Carolina students chosen for the award, which is the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating high school senior and comes from the nation’s most prestigious scholars’ program. He was among 13 semifinalists in South Carolina and the only candidate from Spartanburg. Nearly 5,000 of our nation’s 3.7 million seniors were considered.

The announcement of the 58th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars came from U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona. The class includes 161 high school seniors, selected based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. “Our 2022 Presidential Scholars represent the best of America, and remind us that when empowered by education, there are no limits to what our young people can achieve,” said Cardona. “Today, I join President Biden to celebrate a class of scholars whose pursuit of knowledge, generosity of spirit, and exceptional talents bring our nation tremendous pride. Throughout one of the most trying periods in our nation’s history and amid our recovery from the pandemic, our students have once again demonstrated their strength and that they have so much to contribute to our country. Thanks to them, I know America’s future is bright.”

As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts, and 20 scholars in career and technical education. They are selected by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.

“Today, our Spartanburg High School Viking community stands a bit taller and shines a bit brighter because Maxwell Booker’s accomplishments reflect the collective investment and impact of our school, our district and our community,” said Dr. Vance Jones, principal of Spartanburg High School. “Maxwell is an example and inspiration for all children in our community. He leverages every opportunity and every resource to learn, grow, and excel as a well-rounded individual. Importantly, he is well-loved by peers and teachers alike for being genuine, kind, empathetic, and benevolent. Maxwell Booker has only just begun – I have no doubt we will see him make an important and lasting difference in our world during his lifetime.”

Maxwell will be officially recognized for his outstanding achievement in Washington, D.C. this summer.

"It is a great honor and privilege to represent my state, family, and school district as a 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholar,” Maxwell said. “I would like to express thanks to God, my family, my teachers, my fellow community members, and all who have supported me over the years. While I am being honored this year, I know I will be accepting this award because of the love and support of so many along the way."

Spartanburg High School has a long legacy of Presidential Scholar semifinalists and finalists. Last school year, Jacob Price was named a 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholar and in 2009, District 7 celebrated unprecedented success when both of South Carolina’s U.S. Presidential Scholars were Spartanburg High School students: Bonnie Antosh and Drew Henderson.