Along with more than 100 Lawrence High School seniors honored Monday, two students received recognition granted to nobody else in the state.
Cyrus Mody and Kirsten Magnuson have been named Presidential Scholars, the highest federal honor bestowed upon graduating high school seniors. Mody and Magnuson were just two students honored at Monday night's Senior Recognition Ceremony at LHS.
"He is simply incredible. He has incredible retention and instant recall," LHS social studies teacher Fran McNellis said of Mody. And of Magnuson: "She has intense interests and has opinions and speaks out and has a tremendous sense of humor.
"They make teaching such a pleasure."
Presidential Scholars include one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and from families of U.S. citizens living abroad. The selection also includes up to 20 students specializing in the arts and 15 students chosen at large.
Only seven Kansas students were named finalists for the honor. Finalists were selected by a panel of distinguished educators after a review of essays, self-assessment, description of activities, school recommendations and transcripts submitted by semifinalists. The semifinalist pool consisted of 2,600 students from across the country who qualified based on their Scholastic Aptitude Test and American College Test scores.
A White House Commission on Presidential Scholars chose Mody and Magnuson as Kansas' honorees.
LHS English teacher Susan Fleming sponsored this year's Scholars' Bowl team, of which Mody was a member.
"Two things that impress me are the breadth of his interests and the fact that he's really a leader in academics," Fleming said. "He's not just passively intelligent. He takes the initiative to find out things."
Roma Earles, LHS gifted education consultant, said Magnuson has a way with words.
"She's very up front and has well-thought-out ideas about global issues," Earles said. "She just seems to have a real talent for cutting through to the heart of an issue.
"She's also very friendly. I don't think she's ever met an enemy."
Mody, the son of Janet and Cowas Mody, said his approach to challenges is pretty straightforward.
"I just work hard as long as I can, and when it's over, I look back and enjoy having done it," Mody said.
Magnuson, the daughter of Sarah and Mike Magnuson, said she likes to delve into topics and issues, as opposed to examining them superficially.
"I like to look at the whole picture and at more than what you find in textbooks," she said.
Magnuson said she has enjoyed the diversity of students at LHS.
"It's really a wonderful opportunity to get to go to a school with such diverse people with so many backgrounds and interests," Magnuson said. "I think LHS has been really good for me because I've seen just what every person has to offer."
Mody said he has enjoyed the opportunity to use what he has learned by participating in extracurricular activities. In addition to the Scholars' Bowl and High Q academic competitions, Mody has been involved in the Citizen Bee. He represented Kansas in the National Citizen Bee last year.
Magnuson's interests include theater. Two LHS productions she appeared in this school year were "Our Town" and "T-Money and Wolf." The latter play, written by local playwrights, has received national recognition, and Magnuson will help perform the play in Boston this August.
Mody will attend Harvard next fall and plans to study engineering. Magnuson, who has not decided on a major, will attend Yale.