Wilton High student named Presidential Scholar candidate

High school is considered an important time in anyone’s life. Striking a balance between fun and academics is a tough trick to pull off. Wilton High School senior Eric Noonan is a prime example of that mix.

Eric has been named as a candidate in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Established in 1964, the program recognizes the most distinguished graduating high school seniors. According to its website, students who have scored well on the SAT or ACT are qualified to enter.

“I had never heard about it until about a week and a half ago,” said Eric. “Out of 3.4 million graduating seniors, they select 3,000. That’s where I am now.”

Those students who have been selected must write a personal statement that introduces them to the selecting committee. Those written messages allow the students to discuss their interests, hobbies, and anything they hope will persuade the panel to bring them to Washington, D.C., as one of the 141 scholars. One male and one female student from each state will be selected. The last winner from Wilton was Sarah Gustafson, who won in 2010.

Eric’s approach is a unique one, in that he puts fun in at high priority.

“I think what separates me from many of the other contestants is that I am definitely able to balance my social life and having fun with academics,” he said. “Although I don’t have the 4.0 GPA that I’m sure many of these kids have, I was able to have fun these last three years. I wasn’t locked in my room.”

Good grades come pretty naturally to him, but he admits he could have had even higher grades.

“I found that I don’t really have to study, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t really regret any lack of focus. It was worth it to me in the end. I got into the school I wanted to.”

Eric will attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. With 6,500 undergraduate students, he feels it is the right fit for him. It was also the first school he visited. However, he plans to take a year off and head to Chile as part of the Rotary exchange program. His sister, Danielle, now attending Lafayette College, also participated in the exchange, in Brazil. His parents, Donald Noonan and Faye Kim, encouraged him to go to Chile. A third child, Andrew, is in seventh grade.

“I hope to come back with a few things, including learning Spanish,” he said. “I want to mature a bit before college. I think if I take this time off now, I will go into college with a clear mind. A bit more focused.”

Eric says he isn’t concerned with losing track of his priorities while south of the border. The exchange program, which will have him living with host families, will require him to attend high school. Then he will return to the United States ready for college.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people in Chile and at Vanderbilt,” he added. “I want to meet people that are balanced.”

Back in Wilton, Eric is a member of the high school lacrosse team.

“Sports have been a big part of my life, which is probably different than many of the other people who have been nominated for this,” he said. “I’m big into lacrosse and hope to be good this year.”

As he begins to look back on his high school career, Eric advises future students to not necessarily follow his formula.

“I regret not applying myself freshman and sophomore year,” he said. “I had to work harder in my junior year as a result. I suggest avoiding procrastination.”

Following college, Eric said, he is eyeing a career in engineering.

For more on the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, visit www2.ed.gov/programs/psp/index.html.