Viera’s Lee nominated to be Presidential Scholar


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Viera High School senior Shannon Lee is believed to be the first Brevard County Public Schools student to represent the state of Florida as a candidate to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar.

Carl Kotala

As a child, Viera High School senior Shannon Lee used to like to build … well, not just houses for all of her stuffed animals.

We’re talking mansions.

Now, the future architect’s work is really paying off.

Lee was informed in January that she is one of five Florida high school students — the first from Brevard County according to Viera High School teacher Carrie Humphreys — to be named as a candidate in the 2020 United States Presidential Scholars Program.

“It’s amazing,” Lee said. “I never thought I would be able to get this far into it.”

Established in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program spotlights the academic achievement of outstanding graduating high school seniors. In 2015, it was expanded to include students in the career and technical fields (CTE).

Lee was nominated by Humphreys, Viera High’s CTE Department chair, and went on to win the Brevard County Public Schools and state competitions.

Final applications for the national award were due Feb. 25, with the semifinalists being announced in April. The 2020 Presidential Scholars will be named in May.

Students who receive the honor will receive an expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. in June, where they will receive their Presidential Scholars Medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House during the National Recognition Program (NRP) and will attend a series of events held in their honor.

Humphreys said it’s her understanding Brevard Public Schools has never had a student selected to represent the state of Florida.

“She is driven, she has amazing talent and she works hard to reach the goals that she sets,” Humphreys said of Lee.

“She finds something that she’s interested in and she researches. ‘What can I do to do that extra little bit in order to get there?’ ”

Lee’s interest in designing began at a young age.

“I always built things,” she said. “I had so many stuffed animals and I built homes for every single one. I was just obsessed with it. I built mansions. Every single cardboard box that came into my house, I took it.

“My mom labeled me as the Tape Monster because we’d get scotch tape and I’d be like, ‘That’s mine.’ ”

Despite that interest, it wasn’t until Lee had to do a class project that she began to settle on architecture as a possible career path.

“It began in fourth grade,” she said. “My teacher had us do one of those cheesy autobiography flip book type things. One of the questions was, ‘What do you want to be?’ Before that, I had always said a doctor or a vet … just like every other kid.

“But then, I decided to take it a little bit more seriously. My favorite school subjects have always been art-related things and math. I love those two different categories.

“My teacher and my mom (who is a graphic designer) told me about architecture, which I had never heard about before then.”

In addition to taking part in Odyssey of the Mind and Family, Career Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) competitions, Lee spent the summer after her sophomore year attending a design exploration program at the University of Florida.

Last year, she took part in a residency program at the Fallingwater Institute in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.

Now she’s putting together an application for one of the country’s highest honors a high school student can receive.

“The other ones were more so based on what Ms. Humphreys had written,” Lee said. “I didn’t really have any voice in them.

“But now this one, I have to write six different essays and really put my voice in it.”