Potomac Falls Senior Named Presidential Scholar

By Max Villegas

Uma Pillai, a Potomac Falls High School senior, is being recognized as a U.S. Presidential Scholar. Pillai, along with four other Virginia students, is among 161 high school seniors in the country recognized for achievements in a range of academic and artistic fields. 

To be considered for the honor, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars evaluates candidates based on their score on a standardized test, either the College Board’s SAT or the American College Testing Program’s ACT; their nomination by a chief state school officer, or their nomination by another organization the programs recognizes. Students who wish to be recognized for the arts must also be in the YoungArts program, and those who wish to be recognized for a career and technical education field must show an accomplishment in CTE. 

In addition to Potomac Falls, Pillai attended the Academy of Science at the Academies of Loudoun. Both schools gave her the opportunity to study science and math, and play the trumpet as her section leader. One of her main achievements that she listed in her Presidential Scholar application was her research on “a parasitic worm in peanut allergies,” said Vijay Pillai, Uma’s father. Uma’s experience with peanut allergies has led her to explore the cause, and now her research will be published. 

“Being able to publish that was a huge impact,” said Vijay, as Uma hopes to pursue a career in the medical field. In addition to her research, Uma found joy in giving back to those in need. During the beginning of the pandemic, she organized a donation of hundreds of masks to a Leesburg clinic, at a time when masks were scarce throughout the country. She also reached out to a pediatric nursing home in New Jersey that had children isolated from family members, and were in need of entertainment. Uma created videos, wrote songs, and designed read-along books for the children to help cheer them up. 

“She has worked hard all of her life,” Vijay said. Her participation in community service activities have been rewarding experiences for her—especially during the pandemic. Aside from her extracurriculars, Uma’s teachers played a huge role in who she turned out to be. The Academy of Science uses a flipped classroom set up, where students explore concepts on their own first and follow up with their teachers to go over what they learned. Her teachers gave her the confidence to learn science and math. 

“An ultimate dream” is how Vijay describes what it means for Uma to be recognized as a Presidential Scholar. Uma’s work ethic, and commitment to her community have helped her achieve this honor. After high school, Uma plans to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the six-year medical program to continue studying in the medical field.

Max Villegas is a Freedom High School senior completing his senior capstone project at Loudoun Now.

2 thoughts on “Potomac Falls Senior Named Presidential Scholar

  • 2022-05-17 at 11:32 pm
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    Congratulations to this young woman, a product of our public schools, on her considerable accomplishments!

  • 2022-05-18 at 7:46 am
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    Three cheers for Uma Pillai. She seems like a brilliant, hard-working & well-rounded young lady. Her parents must be so proud. LCPS continues to produce wonderful citizens. Uma Pillai is but the latest example. Happy Teacher Appreciation Month Loudoun!

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