Kate Criner, the valedictorian of the Paducah Tilghman High School Class of 2020, has been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar from nearly 5,600 candidates selected from high schools around the country.

She was named one of 621 semifinalists in the national program and was one of only two U.S. Presidential Scholars in Kentucky and the first U.S. Presidential Scholar from Paducah Tilghman.

Criner was awarded the National Speech and Debate Degree of Special Distinction and was a member of the Kentucky all-state speech team. She is the founder of the teen-driven mental health initiative Loqui and a sitting member of the Provider Enrichment Services Board.

Criner is one of 151 high school seniors to be named a Coca-Cola Scholar. She also recently received the Greydon Seaton Scholarship and the Kiwanis Club of Paducah Scholarship.

Criner is the daughter of Janie and Andy Criner. She will attend the University of Louisville as a Vogt Scholar to study psychology and neuroscience.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by executive order of President Lyndon B. Johnson to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors for their accomplishments in academic success, leadership, service to school and community, strong character and a commitment to high ideals.

All scholars are invited to Washington, D.C., in June for the National Recognition Program, featuring the presentation of the Presidential Scholar Medallion during a White House-sponsored ceremony.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, this summer’s events will not take place at the White House. Instead, Presidential Scholars will be celebrated with online fanfare.

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