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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, February 23, 2024


Mahlena Rae Johnson and Westra Bea Miller of Antilles School have received two of the highest honors that graduating high school seniors can earn.
They have been named candidates in the 36th Presidential Scholars program, which recognizes the most distinguished students in the United States and its territories, and they have qualified as finalists in the 44th annual National Merit Scholarship Program, an honor achieved by less than 1 percent of all seniors.
Selection for both awards is an unusual achievement.
These two prestigious programs choose only the most impressive students to honor, headmaster Mark C. Marin said.
Mahlena Rae and Westra were earlier named Merit Scholar semi-finalists and, based on high performance on SATs and in school, have now made the cut to become one of the 15,500 finalists in the United States and its territories.
Selection to be a Presidential Scholar is based on superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community and school activities. To become one of the 141 Presidential Scholars, Mahlena Rae and Westra must complete numerous essays and self-assessments. The main essay question asks them to decide what three items they would leave in a time capsule as a legacy for the people of the next millennium.
Daughter of entrepreneur Cheryl Miller, Westra has many interests; last summer she took classes in fiction writing and poetry at Barnard College in New York City. But her major interest has long been science.
When I was little, my mother kept little AMA encyclopedias in our bathroom and I would go in and sit on the floor for hours and just read them, Westra says.
While undecided about which college she will attend, Westra knows that she wants to be a practicing physician.
Mahlena Rae Johnson wants to be a filmmaker. She has decided to attend Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she was accepted as an early decision candidate, because of its strong film studies program.
Daughter of Edith Ramsay-Johnson, who teaches nursing at UVI, Mahlena Rae cannot remember a time when she did not enjoy movies. For a while she wanted to be an actress, but two summer experiences exposed her to making videos and film, a session on the art of making videos at Wellesley College, and a program at Boston University, where she made two short films.
Now I ve decided I would like control all aspects that go into making a film, she says.
As National Merit Scholar finalists, Mahlena Rae and Westra are now eligible for one of the 7,600 scholarships funded by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. by corporate sponsors and by colleges.
Their essay submissions and school transcripts will determine whether they become Presidential Scholars. A group of 30 appointed by the president will choose two from each state and territory, up to 20 from the creative and performing arts and 15 at-large students and announce their decisions in May.

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