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Plankinton's international scholar

MONTEZUMA, New Mexico--If you can't visit the world, then bring the world to you. For James Mayclin, who attends the United World College of the United States of America, that's one of the perks of attending an international boarding school. "Our...

James Mayclin
James Mayclin

MONTEZUMA, New Mexico-If you can't visit the world, then bring the world to you.

For James Mayclin, who attends the United World College of the United States of America, that's one of the perks of attending an international boarding school.

"Our mission statement is to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future," Mayclin said. "It's very much focused on basically bringing kids from different backgrounds together."

Mayclin, 19, will graduate this spring from the program. His parents, Paul and Mary Mayclin, live in rural Plankinton. UWC-USA, as it's more commonly known, is one of 15 UWC campuses, which are scattered across five continents. The two-year residential school serves 16- to 19-year-old students from all over the world. Mayclin said he has fellow students from more than 70 different countries, which affords a unique opportunity to see world events from a personal perspective.

The school has "coffee tables," he said, which provides a forum for students from different countries to discuss current affairs in their native lands. Mayclin said a recent one, for instance, had students from Palestine and students from Israel share a stage and talk about the conflict between those groups, and how it's affecting their lives.

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Another time, students from Tibet and students from China discussed the longstanding conflict there. Mayclin said students have also addressed Ebola and the Egyptian independence movement.

"You realize the globe shrinks a lot when you have friends from all over," he said. "That's been a really incredible experience."

He described his education and experiences at the school as invaluable, and with no tuition-he's there on a full-ride scholarship-he joked it has probably saved his parents money on groceries having him out of state for most of the year.

"I feel like it's one of the better-kept secrets of the education industry," Mayclin said of the school. "I feel like it's kind of hard to put a price on the kind of education you receive here."

Mayclin was also one of 11 students in South Dakota selected as semifinalists for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Of the 11 semifinalists for South Dakota, four are in The Daily Republic's print circulation area: Mayclin; and Kelsie Mastel, Shelby Riggs and Ryan Solberg, all of Mitchell High School.

A recognition program for high school seniors, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes one male and one female from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In 2015, the program also recognized students from U.S. families living abroad, and 15 at-large students and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

Application for the award is by invitation only, and students qualify based on their SAT or ACT scores, or a nomination by a Chief State School Officer or one of the program's partner recognition organizations. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars will select the finalists, who will be announced later this month. Those scholars can then attend the National Recognition Program in June in Washington, D.C.

There are 689 semifinalists in the country, who were selected from nearly 4,700 candidates expected to graduate from U.S. high school this year.

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This summer, Mayclin plans to return to his rural Plankinton home for a while. He was one of eight South Dakota students accepted into this year's Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab).

According to the Sanford Lab website, the students begin the program at Sanford Lab - where they work with scientists, engineers, geologists and others - then travel to the University of Wisconsin, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab in Illinois. The final week is spent in Italy, where they will visit Gran Sasso National Laboratory.

In the fall, the 19-year-old plans to attend Stanford University, where he will likely major in computer science and minor in economics. He hasn't decided what career he wants to pursue, but noted computer science's growing relevance across the board.

"Computer science is a really burgeoning field right now, so it leaves the field pretty wide open," he said. "I feel like it's a great place to be if you're looking to make an impact."

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