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Gopi the Great

Gopi Ramanathan wins U.S. Presidential Scholar Award

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On May 4th, John King the U.S Secretary of Education awarded students across the United States as Presidential Scholars.

Gopi Ramanathan from Sartell is one of 160 outstanding American high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community. From the small town of Sartell, MN, Gopi is showing the world brilliance. The U.S. Presidential Scholars will be honored for their accomplishments in Washington D.C., from June 19-21.

“This year’s class of Presidential Scholars continues a more than 50-year trend of honoring students who’ve shown excellence in their educational, artistic and civic pursuits,” the Secretary of Education, John King said. He continued, “Thirty years ago, the program was expanded to include students in the arts, which is critical to providing students with a well-rounded education. Now, we’ve added 20 more slots to honor our highest achieving students in career and technical education, reflecting the Department’s belief that a quality education must be a well-rounded education that prepares students for college, careers and any other civic service.”

From each state, a boy and girl are appointed as well as 15 others selected. Since 1983, each Presidential Scholar has been offered the opportunity to name their most influential teacher. Karrie Fredrickson was Gopi’s pick. Each distinguished teacher is admired with a personal letter from the Secretary of Education.

The other awarded scholar for the state of MN is Anna B. Biggs of Roseville. Together Gopi and Anna were the only ones awarded in the state. I had the exciting chance to sit down with Gopi and ask him some questions.

How would you describe winning this award?

Honestly, I was kind of surprised! I was told I was a semi-finalist in the middle March. Each state gets one female and one male, and I know there was only one female on the list so she automatically got it. There were 5 or 6 males, and they’re all from the cities and probably have tons more opportunities than I do, so I didn’t know if I was going to get this. Then I finally found out, and I was like oh geez!

Does that make it even better that you didn’t have as many resources?

Uhh, I guess it does; I thought that the kids in the cities would get it.

So do you get to meet the president?

I don’t know, they’re keeping the schedule secret from us.

If you do, what will you say or ask him? Or will you be awestruck and not say anything?

I will probably be awestruck. If he did come up to me, I would say thank you because I remember being little in 2008 when he was elected. I remember seeing him and thinking “Hey, if he as a minority and can win an election, then I as a minority can do anything I want.”

So how much work did you have to put into this or how much would a candidate have to put in from and early age?

It’s definitely more than just academics.  You have to be involved in your community, do community service, and be a leader in your school. I say it’s just in a way doing what you enjoy because there are three different kinds of awards for this. There is the normal presidential scholar award, and there are also presidential scholar awards for the arts (which is newer) or tech/engineering program.

What was the first thing you did or where were you when you found out?

I think I was sitting at home late studying for calc when I found out. And honestly at that moment, I was so focused on calc that I was just like okay I can’t think about this now…I have to keep moving forward.

What did your family say? Or your siblings? You have a little brother, right?

Yes, my little brother was super excited. He is my biggest supporter. It’s just awesome to have him.

And your parents were super excited too?

(head nodding) Uh huh!

If there was someone in this school or state that you would nominate for next year if you could who would it be?

-Oooh…hmm…I don’t know if there is a single student. There are so many different aspects [with] this award and so many different aspects to excellence that there is a lot of students in this school that could go for this award. The simple requirements are that you need to get a high ACT score or be nominated by the state Secretary of Education. So if you are able to do that, then you can move on.

Out of curiosity, why did you choose Mrs. Fredrickson (Freddy) out of all your teachers to honor? Or how has she shaped your experience here at the high school?

She definitely transformed me. When I came in as a freshman, I was really shy and really quiet and timid. Being in student council, even though I was as a freshman, I was still the quiet one who did what he was told. Then as I grew older, she pushed me to get out of my shell and get out of my comfort zone and grow as a person. So now here I am.

Wow, that’s really neat that she shaped you that way. Thanks so much for talking to me today and congratulations.

Yes, of course, thank you!

Gopi released on Twitter, May 11th, that he will be attending Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences in the fall. Congratulations Gopi on this big achievement and good luck next year! For more information go to  the St. Cloud Times article.

To learn more about Gopi go to

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