State officials recognize student’s achievements

Presidential Scholar Raymond Slifer was lauded by the Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Education, a state Senator and Representative, along with education leaders during a ceremony and visit to the Upper Bucks County Technical School.
Posted on 06/02/2021
Presidential Scholar Raymond Slifer, left, shares an elbow bump with Noe Ortega, Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of Education.  By Gary Weckselblatt

Pennsylvania Department of Education Acting Secretary Noe Ortega visited the Upper Bucks County Technical School Wednesday afternoon to recognize the “high accomplishments” of Presidential Scholar Raymond Slifer and tout the importance of career and technical education.

Raymond, a student at Quakertown Community High School and the UBCTS, is Pennsylvania’s first career and technical education Presidential Scholar since the program began recognizing students with those abilities and accomplishments in 2015. Raymond is one of 161 seniors nationwide chosen to receive one of the highest academic awards bestowed upon a graduating high school senior. Only 20 have demonstrated ability and accomplishment in the fields of career and technical education.

“Raymond has paved a path that reflects hard work, leadership, and community service,” Secretary Ortega said. “It’s a privilege to be able to celebrate these accolades and achievements with him. It’s nice to see that when someone works hard, really grinds, and they make it in the end.”

Dr. Lee Burket, PDE’s Director of the Bureau of Career and Technical Education, said when the bureau learned of Raymond’s accomplishment “We were doing the happy dance virtually.”

State lawmakers were also part of the ceremony and visit, which included a tour of the school. State Rep. Craig Staats and Sen. Bob Mensch presented Raymond with a Citation from the General Assembly.

Rep. Staats said he’s known the family, Raymond’s parents Ronald and Rachel, for some time. “I’m proud of Raymond, but we’re not surprised,” Rep. Staats said. “He’s a fine young man.”

Sen. Mensch said the common theme throughout the accolades was Raymond’s work ethic. “None of this happened on its own,” he said. “You have a mom and dad who taught you the right way. And you’ve accomplished a great deal. I’ll vote for you when you get to the White House.”

For his part, Raymond appeared naturally overwhelmed by the attention. Prodded by UBCTS Executive Director Jeff Sweda to say a few words, Raymond said “It really does mean a lot. I never thought I could get this far. I grew up on a farm and worked hard, tried to stay humble.”

Later, he added “There's a lot of belief that career and technical kids aren't as good, and I believe that this allows everyone to see that we are just as smart. We can do amazing things just as any other college prep kid can.”

Asked for her reaction to the support for her son, Mrs. Slifer became emotional. “I don’t really have words for it,” she said. “Excitement. It opens doors. But it’s humbling. He’s worked so hard.

“You pray and hope and teach them to do the right thing. And when they become a good person you take pride.”

Presidential 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 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.

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 also 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, using over a dozen duel credits earned while attending UBCTS. He will then transfer to Pennsylvania College of Technology and major in Manufacturing Engineering.

“What Raymond has accomplished is extraordinary,” QCHD Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said. “Raymond has earned this accomplishment through perseverance, hard work and dedication. He has shown outstanding leadership and is a fine example for our students to follow.”

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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