Interlochen, Mich. - Phoebe Rusch, 18, has been named one of 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts by U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings. Rusch, a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy, a fine arts boarding school in northwest Lower Michigan, will be honored in Washington D.C. in June, alongside 121 Presidential Scholars in Academics.
This latest honor comes on the heels of other considerable successes. In April, Rusch was one of eleven high school writers honored with a Gold Portfolio Award from Scholastic. In the summer of 2006, one of her plays was fully produced by the Theater Alliance in Washington D.C. and received excellent reviews from several local critics. Two years ago, as a high school sophomore, Rusch entered the semi-annual Interlochen creative writing contest and won, which led to a scholarship to attend the school’s prestigious high school writing program.
Rusch is the 39th Presidential Scholar from Interlochen Arts Academy, a record of achievement unmatched by any other public or private school in the nation. “The entire Interlochen community is so proud of Phoebe,” said Interlochen Center for the Arts President, Jeffrey Kimpton. “This is a testament to Phoebe’s talent and hard work but also to our faculty and staff who work so hard to nurture and motivate our great young scholar-artists.” Kimpton also noted that the award was one of the highest honors available to young artists.
The Presidential Scholars program was created in 1964 to honor academic achievement. It was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. At the request of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts (NFAA) nominates students for consideration after an extensive talent search program.
As a creative writing student at Interlochen Arts Academy, Rusch has focused intently on developing her writing talents. “Phoebe has developed a voice that is unique to her being during her time here,” said Anne Marie-Oomen, a writing instructor at Interlochen. “In the last two years, she has been able to stretch out and really explore her writing, under guidance, in the classes and genres that were best suited to her. Oomen also noted that Rusch displays a deep concern for social issues in her writing. She plans to attend Princeton in the fall.
The Creative Writing Department at Interlochen Center for the Arts was founded in 1975 with a major grant from the Ford Foundation. The program includes an extensive curriculum of literary genres and interdisciplinary courses. Classes are capped at twelve students, tutorials are readily available and notable guest writers visit a dozen times a year. Student publications include personal chapbooks, the quarterly Red Wheelbarrow magazine and the annual Interlochen Review. Including Rusch, 17 of the 39 Interlochen students who have earned the Presidential Scholar in the Arts Awards have been writers.
Interlochen Arts Academy attracts exceptionally talented and motivated students from nearly every state and more than 20 other countries to study creative writing, music, dance, visual arts, theatre, motion picture arts and rigorous college-preparatory academics. The Arts Academy is part of the non-profit Interlochen Center for the Arts, which also recently garnered national attention when it was awarded the National Medal of Arts in the fall of 2006.