Two OPRF students qualify for U.S. Presidential Scholarship

Senior Alex Yuan.

Camille Grant, Staffer

In late fall, senior Garrett Credi received an unusual email. He was named as a candidate for the U.S. Presidential Scholarship on account of his ACT score. Credi was surprised — he hadn’t even entered the scholarship. He texted fellow senior Alex Yuan, who also unwittingly qualified for the scholarship, which chooses top-scoring students from each state.

The scholarship, created in 1964, offers students an all-expenses-paid trip to a recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C. There are two categories: art and academics. The name is a bit of a misnomer — the scholarship does not actually give students money — but it is a prestigious opportunity for 161 students from across the United States to have their achievements honored. 

Yuan credits Khan Academy with his ACT success. Apart from the website and a practice test at the Oak Park Public Library, Yuan “didn’t really prepare.” Pacing on the ACT is critical to success, so Yuan advises students avoid “worrying about getting everything right.”

Credi and Yuan are both four-year members of the math team. Last year, the entire team — about 40 students — qualified for state and traveled to Urbana-Champaign to compete. This was an intellectually fruitful experience for both of them.

“Math is my favorite thing to learn about,” said Credi. He took an independent study last year to discover the field of abstract algebra with the adviser of the math team. Additionally, Credi is interested in the emerging field of neurological topology. Neurological topology uses mathematical formulations to model the human brain, which has clinical and research applications. Credi’s favorite mathematician is Bernard Riemann, because he introduced geometry to the field of calculus. 

Since last December, Yuan has tutored at Mathnasium.  “You’re doing it to help the kids,” he said. Yuan’s personal interest in math began at age 4. His parents gifted him a math textbook, which he consumed quickly. Yuan’s favorite mathematician is Leonhard Euler, who Yuan credits with discovering “almost everything.”

Besides their devotion to mathematics, both scholars are passionate about topics outside of academics. 

Credi has belonged to the OPRF cross country team for several years. His middle school friends ran on the team, which inspired him to join. As it turned out, the coach of the team was also his math teacher. This was the case at OPRF as well. “I’ve had a lot of math teacher-coaches,” Credi said, laughing. 

Yuan, a budding altruist, spends much of his time working with children. Yuan has volunteered with the Oak Park Public Library’s V.O.L.T. leaders for the past four years. He is also involved with student leadership at his church. In the future, he hopes to research renewable energy sources, which he believes is the big issue of our time.

In mid-April, the two will learn if they are semifinalists. By May, Yuan and Credi will know if they’ve made the scholarship. In the meantime, Credi plans to design the group T-shirts for this year’s math team.