Originally created 05/26/05

Senior named national scholar



AIKEN - Shahin Rothermel finds a way to fill almost every hour of the day.

Her roster of demanding academic courses and extracurricular activities requires it.

The 17-year-old Aiken High School senior has completed six Advanced Placement courses; earned a 5.2 grade-point average and a 1,570 on her SAT; and will receive an International Baccalaureate diploma Friday night.

She is the valedictorian of her class and editor of her school newspaper, belongs to the Robotics Team, the BETA Club, the National Honor Society and the German National Honor Society, runs cross-country and track, and serves as a student council senator and a mentor for the city of Aiken Youth Court program.

Her high school career has been a distinguished one and has earned her $700,000 in scholarship offers, recognition as one of The Augusta Chronicle's 25 Best & Brightest and a spot in the nation's elite.

Shahin is one of 141 students in the nation to be named a 2005 Presidential Scholar, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.

She is the second student at Aiken High to receive the award that recognizes students with exceptional talent in academic, visual, literary and performing arts.

Shahin will travel to Washington, D.C., for five days in June for educational, celebratory and fellowship activities. But for now, she is convinced that the distinction is some sort of fluke.

"I didn't think I was actually going to get it," she said. "When I saw the envelope from the Department of Education, I thought it was an offer for a loan."

Shahin seems inclined to downplay most of the accolades and leadership roles she has earned over the years, including the time she took over her journalism class in the absence of her teacher, who was forced to leave town to care for her injured son after a serious car accident.

"I felt in the beginning of the year I hadn't done enough as editor," Shahin said. "With all the (advertising) contracts, we had an obligation to get to press, otherwise we'd have to pay all that money back."

Last fall, Shahin excused herself from her seventh-period International Baccalaureate philosophy course for a month to teach a roomful of freshmen and sophomores the foundations of journalism.

"I felt really presumptuous teaching a group of kids who are two years younger than myself," she said.

She completed her course work at home, attended cross-country practice every afternoon and filled out college applications in between editing assignments and designing advertisements.

"I think that was the roughest month of my life," she said.

There were other rough moments before that experience.

"After 9/11, I was affronted by various people calling me a terrorist," said Shahin, who is part Iranian.

Americans, she decided, did not understand other cultures. At that moment, Shahin vowed to change that.

"She's written essays for various scholarships about issues in the world that are not forefront," said Linda Strojan, a guidance counselor at Aiken High School. "She obviously spends time looking and reading about Somalia, things in the Middle East. She's very concerned about the rest of the world."

Shahin wants to devote her life to cultural awareness.

She will attend New York University this fall and major in international relations. Her dream is to work for the United Nations someday.

"The best place you can go to get a sampling of different cultures, different lifestyles, you name it - a big city is ideal for that."

Reach Krista Zilizi at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or krista.zilizi@augustachronicle.com.

High school graduations

TONIGHT

Ridge Spring-Monetta, 7 p.m.

Silver Bluff, 6 p.m.

FRIDAY

Aiken, 6 p.m.

Midland Valley, 7 p.m.

North Augusta, 7 p.m.

Wagener-Salley, 7 p.m.

South Aiken, 8 p.m.

All graduations will be in the school gymnasiums.