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McCann Senior Named U.S. Presidential Scholar
By Rebecca Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:05AM / Thursday, May 26, 2016
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McCann senior Samantha Dorwin stands in front of a machine she used to design a gumball machine that is more accessible to those with disabilities.

Samantha Dorwin speaks about going to Canada to participate in a SkillsUSA competition.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — McCann Tech senior Samantha Dorwin is going places.

Or, to be more accurate, she is going MORE places, as the 18-year-old already has logged 15,000 miles in the air in last two years participating in SkillsUSA conferences. This coming summer, while attending SkillsUSA's National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky., she will fly to Washington, D.C., for a couple days to be honored for receiving one most prestigious awards a graduating high school senior can earn: the U.S. Department of Education's Presidential Scholar award.

Appropriately for Dorwin, daughter of Daniel and Pamela Dorwin, she learned she was a finalist for the honor while on a trip away from her North Adams home at a SkillsUSA event in Canada, Compétences Québec/Skills Canada.

"I was in my hotel room in Quebec City," Dorwin recalled Tuesday morning, less than a week before she graduates from McCann as salutatorian of her class, excelling not only in academics in her machine technology program but also playing varsity softball and participating (and medaling) in figure skating at the Bay State Games, serving on the District Attorney Youth Advisory Board, and performing hundreds of hours of community service.

McCann Principal Justin Kratz said Dorwin is one of only four Massachusetts students to be named a Presidential Scholar this year, one of only 160 nationwide and only the third student in Berkshire County ever to receive the honor (according to the "unofficial official record-keeping" of local history buffs at McCann).

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 to recognize and honor some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Obama, selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields — like Dorwin.

One young man and one young woman from each state is selected as a finalist, plus 20 in career and technical fields, after a long process of being nominated at the state level and completing essays and applications. While Dorwin said the process was difficult, the outcome of being named a finalist suits her just fine.

"I've really pushed myself beyond the high school experience," she said. "I think this recognition has helped me realize that had really paid off."

Dorwin, who will enter Bentley University in the fall to major in finance and management, said she hopes to secure a career as a corporate financial manager.

"I love math, so finance makes sense to me," she said, adding that her dream job would be to work for HGTV someday. 

Kratz said he believes Dorwin will succeed at anything, recalling how she was a bit of a shy student who "flew under the radar" when she entered McCann.

"It just kind of snowballed into this senior who is incredibly confident ... poised and prepared," he said. "What Sam has accomplished has set the bar for future students, even if they don't realize it yet."

For her part, Dorwin said she is happy to inspire future generations of McCann students.

"There are challenges if you push yourself enough to find them," she said. "Just because we're a smaller school out in Western Massachusetts [doesn't mean] it's impossible to become something."

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