Our Presidential Scholar

Raymond Slifer is one of 20 career and technical education students nationwide to achieve the prestigious honor.
Posted on 05/13/2021
Raymond Slifer works on a machine.By Gary Weckselblatt

Raymond Slifer, a senior at Quakertown Community High School and Upper Bucks County Technical School, has been named a 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholar, one of the highest awards the nation can bestow upon a graduating senior.

“This is insane,” said Raymond, who found out Thursday when he checked his email during a break from running his milling machine at Bracalente Manufacturing Group. He read the letter from the U.S. Department of Education and “I had a big, old smile on my face.”

He immediately contacted his parents on a group chat and they expressed how proud they were. “They were very, very excited,” he said. “I had to control my excitement and go back to running my machine. It’s a really fun time.”

Raymond is one of 161 seniors chosen for the prestigious honor. Only 20 have demonstrated ability and accomplishment in the fields of career and technical education. Raymond is one of those 20, and the first student in Pennsylvania to achieve this status.

The challenge to attain these heights is significant. Consider, there are 3.6 million students expected to graduate from high school this year. Just over 6,000 of them qualified for the 2021 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams.

“This is an extraordinary achievement and Raymond is an extraordinary student and leader,” QCHS Principal Mattias van't Hoenderdaal said. “Raymond has earned this accomplishment through hard work and dedication, and is certainly worthy of this recognition. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He is a fine example for our students to follow and he is certain to have wonderful opportunities in the future.”

Jeff Sweda, Executive Director at UBCTS, said “I am so proud of Raymond and the entire staff. This is just another testament of the work that is put in will always shine. Congratulations to everyone.”

Scholars are selected annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. They are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 Scholars in the arts and 20 Scholars in career and technical education.

The Scholars Program was established in 1964 to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. 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. That’s where Raymond excels.

A Machining Technologies student, Raymond is a Cooperative Education student trainee employed by Bracalente in Trumbauersville. He is a tool room technician and has received all excellent evaluations from his employer He has also excelled in the Machining Technologies Program, earning the OSHA 10 Safety Certification and several National Institute of Metal Working Skills Certifications. He was named a member of the National Technical Honor Society and has competed and placed at SkillsUSA machining competitions at the district and state levels.

Raymond, an Eagle Scout, is a junior firefighter with the Richlandtown Fire Co. He is enrolled in the UBCTS/Bucks County Community College Technical Entrepreneurship Program and will seek his associate’s degree upon graduation. He will then transfer to Pennsylvania College of Technology and major in Manufacturing Engineering.

Raymond said he looked back today at how he continued to advance through the rounds of the Scholars program. “When I think about it, it’s like, ‘Wow, a lot of people started in this and they’re just as smart as me but I got selected to win the award, which is insane to me.’ I want to thank the people around me because I couldn’t have gotten where I am without them.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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