Kids Corner


Mr. Singh Goes To Washington




Fort Atkinson High School senior Arjun Singh Dhillon is one of two Wisconsin students who have been named 2011 Presidential Scholars.

The son of Dr. Satwant Singh and Rubal Kaur Dhillon, he is the first student from Fort Atkinson School District ever to be awarded the honor. Arjun joined Haley Adams of Central High School in Brookfield and a group of 141 students nationwide to receive the Presidential Medallion at the White House earlier this summer.

"He's one of the most brilliant young men I've encountered in 36 years in education, just a really interesting and intriguing young man," said Fort Atkinson School District superintendent Dr. James Fitzpatrick. "He's probably the most celebrated academic student I've ever seen."

State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers noted that students who are named Presidential Scholars are representative of the many fine young people who will be graduating from our high schools this year.

"Congratulations to all our graduates and especially to Haley and Arjun," Evers said. "Through the support of parents, families and teachers, these young people have reached high standards for academic accomplishment and community involvement that put them on a path to becoming the citizens and leaders our state and country need for a successful future."

Arjun adds the Presidential Scholar Award to a long list of academic achievements and recognitions.

He is a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist, a member of the National Honors Society and is an AP Scholar with Distinction, as well as having achieved the Bird Scholar award along with Becca McHenry from Fort Atkinson High School.

"He's a Bird Scholar, which is the highest accolade you can receive in the State of Wisconsin; he along with Becca McHenry," said Fitzpatrick. "We were privileged to have two kids from Fort High this year to receive that award.  Both are outstanding kids."

Arjun has been active in extracurricular activities as well, participating in the Science and Environmental Club, Theater Club, Political Club, Student Senate, Academic Bowl and Jazz Band. Co-captain of the Forensics Team, he has led the Math Team and started the Model United Nations Club, as well as numerous other activities.

"He's very proud of his heritage as well, his family roots," Fitzpatrick pointed out. "He's a member of the Sikh Society of Wisconsin Madison Youth; he stayed in touch with his culture."

The 141 Presidential Scholars were chosen by members of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars from 3,000 candidates. Qualification was based on ACT or SAT test scores or through the Young Arts competition through the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. The application process included essays, school evaluations and transcripts, evidence of leadership, community service and "demonstration of commitment to high ideals."

"It was a fairly intense application. I'll say more work involved than the average college application," said Arjun Singh, who achieved a perfect score on his ACT.

Each scholar nominates a teacher who has been particularly inspiring or challenging for recognition during the program. Arjun chose Brian Yearling, his English teacher at Fort Atkinson High School. Yearling was invited to accompany Arjun to Washington D.C. to receive the annual Teacher Recognition Award.

"Choosing Yearling, it was a tough choice, when I got to that point in the application, to list your most influential high school teacher," Arjun said. "There's a number of really fantastic teachers at Fort Atkinson High School, a host of other teachers who I've had a really nice personal connection with and I've learned a lot from.

"I ended up picking Yearling because we'd always had really interesting interactions outside the classroom," Arjun added. "I was never in The Signal (student newspaper), but even then, there were times when I would sit in the lunch period in his classroom and talk to him about a variety of things, then have to snag a cookie before my next class."

He continued: "I feel like not everybody is capable of thinking on the same wavelength as everyone else, but Mr. Yearling was sort of unique in that capacity. He was really well-suited to understanding what people were saying to him; where those ideas were coming from and how he should best respond to those ideas. I always enjoyed talking to him and some of the conversations we had a significant influence on my intellectual development."

Yearling is no longer at the Fort Atkinson High School, working now in Waukesha as a technology innovator.

"Mr. Yearling was a very gifted educator, who, with the tools of technology and the depth of content he had in literature and writing, and creativeness, I think that matched up well with all of Arjun's aptitudes. I think it was a good match," said Fitzpatrick.

Yearling said he was very honored to be chosen as the most influential teacher in Arjun Singh's life.

"I think we all know that Arjun is one of those unique people that is going to succeed regardless of where he is and what circumstances present themselves," he said. "I'm fortunate to have had the experience of getting to know him and learning from him, probably far more than he learned from me.

"He truly is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind individual," Yearling noted. "I have the sneaking suspicion that Arjun will be one of those students that I tell people about when he achieves big things in life. You know, 'Hey, kids, that man who is speaking up there in front of crowds of millions. Well, I was his English teacher.'"

Following graduation, Arjun is continuing his education this autumn at Princeton University.

"I have a variety of interests; I like a lot of different subjects," he said. "I've always liked the way that math represents a formalization of logic. I'm hoping to get a better sense of what it is to study math at an undergraduate level once I get to Princeton."

Arjun is also interested in philosophy, international affairs, law and medicine.

"That's one of the nice things about the American system people don't realize, but in India, for instance, where my mom went to school, you come out of 12th grade and go straight into medical school if you want to do that. And you're out in four years and have an M.D. by the time you're 21 because they start school a year earlier. So you end up getting a very compressed academic experience in that way," said Arjun. "Fortunately, here I can explore, look at what I like, then have the luxury of time in that respect," he added.

Fitzpatrick predicted that Arjun would go on to do great things regardless of what subject he chose to study.

"He's pretty well-rounded. He reminds me of when you think of great people in history: I think of Alexander the Great. They said he could do anything. I think this guy has some pretty good capabilities like that," said Fitzpatrick.

Arjun credited his achievements to the support of his family and teachers.

"I am grateful to a variety of different people who helped me throughout my high school experience, pushed me through my high school experience, made it better; to all those people for being able to help me. Obviously, I mentioned Mr. Yearling as one person that meant a lot to me, but other teachers - Mr. Johnson and people like Tom Cook who are just really great at what they do and so good at making you better and so good at putting you through the steps. I just really appreciate peoples' effort in that regard," said Arjun.

"All the achievements that I do have and all the experiences that I have had are due in large part to what those people have been able to give me," he added. "There was a lot of work involved in my part, but that's only one side of the equation."

The Presidential Scholars program was established in 1964 by executive order of the President of the United States. The program has recognized more than 6,000 students for their commitment to academic and artistic achievement.

In addition, Arjun has been invited to represent the State of Wisconsin at a regional competition in Iowa.

"It's exciting mostly at this point; obviously, I'm into my college and how I do in a high school math competition is not necessarily going to mean a whole lot going forward," said Arjun. "But the nice thing about this particular experience is that I get to spend some time with other kids who are also really into math, and are also going to a variety of academically competitive schools to study math.

"You get to know these kids through different math competitions and even other academic competitions," he added. "To start building your network of people you know is kind of a nice experience, really smart people who are interested in the same things you are."

Arjun said he hoped to be able to attend both the regional math meet and Jazz di Pasta at Fort Atkinson High School, in which he will be performing on alto saxophone with the High School Jazz Band.

Presidential Scholars also are invited to apply for a State Department-sponsored program in which the top 12 applicants travel to China for two weeks after preparatory sessions with high-ranking government officials.


[Courtesy: Daily Union]

September 16, 2011


Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), September 16, 2011, 6:43 AM.

What a spectacular performance. You do all the Sikhs world-wide proud. Keep thy wagon hitched to the sky. May Waheguru keeps His Hand on your head.

2: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), September 16, 2011, 9:38 AM.

Just as every new edition of a book must surpass the old, similarly a student must excel the teacher, and in the final analysis each child must outdo the parent, or else there is no progress possible. It is clear that Arjun is well on his way. Congratulations and all the best.

3: Gurnek Singh (Manchester, United kingdom), September 16, 2011, 12:50 PM.

Well done. You have done the Panth proud. Remember, 'khud ko kar buland itna keh har taqdeer se pehle, khuda bande se khud poochhe bataa teri razaa kya hai'

4: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), September 16, 2011, 5:27 PM.

Here in the United Kingdom, right here in West Yorkshire two or three years ago, a Sikh became the first person in British history to get straight A's in all 5 A Level examinations.

5: Harpreet Singh (Delhi, India), September 17, 2011, 1:45 PM.

Sincere students like Arjun Singh and their parents really do all Sikhs proud. We must encourage good education for all. Bhai Kahan Singh has written in the Maha(n) Kosh that all gurdwaras must have facilities to provide education to all. Please publish suggestions of Arjun Singh so that all students can benefit.

6: Jesmail (Malaysia), September 18, 2011, 4:11 AM.

Feel so proud to read about you. Congratulations and well done! May you have every success.

7: Jagjit Singh (Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India), September 18, 2011, 4:58 AM.

May you forever be blessed with gursikhi. You will be a role model for many.

8: Amarjit Singh (Malaysia), September 18, 2011, 7:23 AM.

Excellent, young brother. Just keep it up and going. God bless.

9: Arjun Singh Dhillon (Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A.), September 18, 2011, 8:51 PM.

Thank you for your comments, everybody. I'm just fortunate to have whatever Waheguru gave me!

10: Daljit Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), September 19, 2011, 9:05 AM.

Very impressive. Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration to many young Sikhs.

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