CITY OF BROOKFIELD - Hard work and a lot of help along the way.

That's how Brookfield East High School senior Colin Gray-Hoehn says he was able to earn one of the highest academic honors in the country.

Earlier this month, Gray-Hoehn was named one of only 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars across the nation and one of just three in the state.

"I was just honored in the first place to be nominated and I certainly never expect to make it to the stage of semifinalist and then to actually make it," Gray-Hoehn said.

Of the 3.5 million students expected to graduate high school this year, 5,100 qualified for consideration to be Presidential Scholars. After nominations by chief state school officers, winners were chosen based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations, and transcripts as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

Gray-Hoehn acknowledged many outside influences with helping him get to this point in his life.

"I've been fortunate to have a number of mentors in my life, whether they were teachers or coaches, who afforded me a number of opportunities," Gray-Hoehn said.

Involvement in numerous activities

In addition to his high academic marks, Gray-Hoehn has been highly involved in a number of extracurricular activities including forensics and debate, track and field and volleyball.

The senior and lifelong Brookfield resident also spent part of the fall of 2015 acting as Senate page for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

The Senate Page Program gives students an opportunity to learn about Congress while continuing their coursework.

Among his many academic mentors, Gray-Hoehn named Brookfield East English teacher Emira Hot as his biggest influence.

"She was a tremendous influence for me. She had really high standards," Gray-Hoehn said. "She helped me with not just the curriculum and classes, but some core fundamentals about life and working hard. Still, she would be just one of many that have helped throughout my academic career to me to get to this point."

Hot returned her student's compliments, calling Gray-Hoehn not only a good student, but a good person.

"He is brilliant. He has such intellectual promise, but what impressed me the most about him is how humble he is in his own brilliance," Hot said. "He has a profound sense of humanity. His calling seems to be helping others and not just himself. He likes to help people. He does not really expect anything out of it. He is a genuinely altruistic person."

Gray-Hoehn is the son of Karen Gray-Hoehn and Jim Hoehn. He also has an older sister, Hayley, and an older brother, Tyler.

"We are very excited for him. He's done very well and we're proud of that," Karen Gray-Hoehn said. "I think the part for us that we are most excited about is that he is a really good person. All of the accomplishments don't really mean anything unless you're a good person."

Select group

In total, the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one boy and one girl from each state (Including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia), as well as 15 at-large winners, 20 in the arts and 20 from career and technical education.

Maria Thurow of New Glarus High School and Dylon Pokorny of Waupun Junior and Senior High School were also honorees from Wisconsin.

"Wisconsin’s Presidential Scholars represent the outstanding graduates of the Class of 2017,” said Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers. “These students know it takes hard work, dedication and responsibility to balance their academic studies along with a host of extracurricular and service activities they pursued in high school. Their teachers, families and communities undoubtedly contributed to their success. With continued hard work Colin, Dylon and Maria, along with all our 2017 graduates, will create a better future for our state and nation.”

Gray-Hoehn and the other 160 U.S. Presidential Scholars will be honored with the U.S. Presidential Scholar medallion at a June 18 ceremony sponsored by the White House in Washington, D.C.

Gray-Hoehn, who attended Pilgrim Park Middle School and Dixon Elementary, will attend Harvard College in the fall and plans to study government.

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