An interest in computer technology has earned one Mitchell High School senior a prestigious national recognition.

Jacob Shawd, who will graduate this school year from Mitchell High School, was recently named a career and technical education candidate as part of the 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Career and technical education candidates are nominated by their chief state school officers based on their accomplishments in career and technical education fields.

“That’s kind of neat,” Shawd said about his candidacy in a recent interview with the Mitchell Republic.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by executive order of the President of the United States to recognize some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating seniors for their accomplishments. Those areas include academic success, leadership and service to school and community, as well as the visual, creative and performing arts.

In 2015, the program was expanded to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical fields. Up to 116 scholars are selected each year, representing excellence in education and the promise of greatness in American youth. If circumstances permit, all scholars are invited to Washington, D.C., in June for the National Recognition Program, featuring various events and enrichment activities and culminating in the presentation of the Presidential Scholars Medallion during a White House-sponsored ceremony.

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Shawd received a letter confirming his candidacy, and he approached his guidance counselor as well as past recipients of the honor and started working on the formal application. It is a process full of paperwork, including a written essay.

“It wasn’t too horrible. Just time-consuming,” Shawd chuckled.

While he doesn’t necessarily enjoy paperwork, he does enjoy computer technology. He is taking aim at studying the subject in college, where he would like to focus on programming. A trip to Madison the summer of his freshman year sparked an interest in the field.

“Next year I’m hoping to go to Dakota State University and major in computer science,” Shawd said. “I was able to go to their GenCyber Camp and do a crash course on what it would be like to go there.”

The DSU GenCyber program, according to the school website, introduces students to learning about hacking, fixing and exploring cyber security. The camp is designed for high school students entering grades 10 through 12. The students participate in hand-on education sessions with professors, alumni, industry professionals and current students, with a primary purpose of educating and exciting groups of students who may not have considered studying or working in cyber security.

A few years later, Shawd is set to graduate from Mitchell High School and continue his experience in the computer science field. Although the finer points of a career remain in flux, he has an idea of how where he would like his computer science education to take him.

“I’m more into the programming aspect of it. I like to work my brain. But sometimes it’s back and forth on whether I want to do that or cyber ops,” Shawd said. “Right now I’d like to be a software engineer for a bigger company.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Shawd moved with his family when he was young, making stops that included Mitchell and Sioux Falls before returning to Mitchell during his seventh grade year. He found a niche in the Mitchell School District in its customized math learning program that year. As the school years rolled on, he strengthened his studies with more classes that suited his tastes.

“In middle school when we first got here, we talked to the middle school and learned they had a customized math learning program. That was really nice. They let you learn at your own pace and you never have to sit around and wait,” Shawd said. “In high school, I don’t know how others are, but they are pretty open on what classes you want to take. I was able to make my schooling go by pretty quickly.”

He has been heavily involved in the robotics club the last four years, taking on a mentoring role with the younger students during his senior year. When he’s not helping younger students find their way or wrapped up in his own studies, he holds down a part-time job at Walmart, where he logs hours five days a week after school.

“The past four years I’ve been in the robotics club, but this year I’m mainly doing a lot more helping the younger middle schoolers learn how to do it,” Shawd said. “This year I was more focused on getting a job.”

Between school and work, Shawd hopes his breadth of experience has prepared him well for college and reaching his goals in the field of computer science. He said he will be keeping an ear out for when the semi-finalists and finalists for the Presidential Scholars Program are announced in April and May, but until then he will remain focused on his goal: graduating high school, college, more studying and a career.

“I’m ready for college to come around since I’ve been looking forward to it for so long, and I’m ready to be done with high school,” Shawd said. “I’m just ready for summer and ready for college and new things.”

Shawd is the son of Tim and Brooke Assmus.