Like most Scholars, Jack Wolfgramm, 2015 Presidential Scholar from Hawaii, was surprised and pleased to be invited to be a candidate, and even more surprised to have been selected. His trip from Hawaii to Washington D.C. for the National Recognition Program, though, was much different than for other Scholars. D.C. was the biggest city Jack had ever seen, and in his rural town of Hana on Maui, Jack rarely met anyone new because he knows everyone and has known them most of his life. At the National Recognition Program, all he did was meet and talk to new people, people, he says, who were “down to earth and approachable”.
Even though Jack is from Hawaii, he doesn’t surf, but he kept plenty busy. Through high school, Jack cared for his family’s rural Polynesian farm, his seven younger siblings who are also homeschooled, and taught elementary school children about physics.
Jack moved with his family to a tent on a piece of raw land in his freshman year of high school, and then spent hours, daily, building the family home in which they are now living. In addition to building the house and studying, Jack cultivated taro fields, and cared for roosters, chickens, donkey, goats and pigs.
Jack credits the guidance of his parents, his responsibilities for his siblings, growing and selling his taro and livestock, and his home schooling for his academic success.
Now a student at Princeton University, Jack is anxious to maintain his Tongan heritage. He is learning the kingdom’s language and its traditional dances, which he says don’t come easily. His heritage, though, has “been a big part of my life, not just the food I eat and the place I live, but my personality, how I look at the world, the values that affect me as a person”.
Jack says, “It was interesting and intimidating to be in such a high achieving group” at the National Recognition Program. Future Scholars should be “reassured that everyone is really nice and interesting. Be curious about the other Scholars and share your story”. He thanks his Advisor, Victor, for helping him feel comfortable in D.C. and is eager to be part of the Scholars community at Princeton.
Even though Jack is studying on the mainland, he anticipates eventually returning to a rural area to live and work.