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When the U.S. Department of Education hand-picks a local student for recognition, the local Board of Education (BOE) should do the same. That's exactly what happened March 17, when Branford BOE congratulated Branford High School (BHS) senior Griff Radluski on being invited to apply to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar.
Griff is one of just 500 hundred students nationwide invited by the U.S. Dept. of Education to apply.
Calling it an "incredible honor," Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Halligan announced the invitation was made after Griff earned an astounding perfect score on the national ACT (American College Testing program).
Notified in January, Griff completed his application in February, but won't know until June if he'll be named one the two U.S. Presidential Scholars from Connecticut. Griff is the only Branford applicant.
A personal essay was included in the application process-and essay writing happens to be one of Griff's favorite pastimes. This year, his Advanced Placement (AP) English class includes a lot of essay writing. Griff's also taking AP chemistry, AP calculus, and AP European history.
Griff enjoys an educational challenge-for example, he says, "I really like calculus. Even though it frustrates me all the time, it really gives me a sense of progress."
As for his perfect ACT score (36 composite, 35 math), Griff says he's always seemed to have a knack for test-taking. He took the ACT in October for the first (and only) time.
"I try to think like the test-makers think. They're not trying to trick you, but there is a pattern to it. It [also] doesn't bother me if I change my answer," he says. "I know it's still going to be my best answer."
Griff would like to win the U.S. Presidential Scholar honor for a very special reason. The self-professed "party-line Democrat" learned this year's scholars are expected to share some time with President Barack Obama.
"To get to be in the same room with him would be amazing."
Griff's pretty amazing, too. He's a member of the BHS National Honor Society chapter, an officer with the BHS World Language Honor Society chapter, a CAPT scholar, and was recently named a National Merit Scholar finalist (now in the running to become a National Merit Scholar).
In his four years at BHS, Griff's been active with Peace
Jam (co-president, junior year); Gay Straight Alliance (president, two years); BHS Green Scene Environmental Club; BHS drama and spring musical crews; and BHS Cultural Diversity Dream Team.
This spring, Griff will once again travel with BHS Peace Jam to the annual Northeast conference, where members will spend a day with a past Nobel Peace Prize winner. Last year, Griff met Nobel laureate Betty Williams, recognized for helping develop peace in Ireland.
As for next year, Griff has already been accepted to Macalester College in Minnesota, a school he chose for its "global focus" and agricultural extension program. He's waiting on a few more college responses before making his final choice.
Ideally, Griff will blend his college major with social justice work. He intends to spend at least one year volunteering to serve with a project such as Heifer International. Last summer, Griff traveled to the Dominican Republic with his church (Trinity Episcopal) youth mission group.
"The kids down there, some of them have never owned a soccer ball. They were so happy we brought them things as simple as crayons and rolls of tape," he says.
Back in Branford, Griff's an acolyte and challis bearer at his church.
"Trinity's a wonderful, accepting community…and wonderful to grow up in," says Griff, a self-described, "out and proud trans male."
"I think it is important that trans males are out and proud," he says. "We have a place in this community."