Sleepy Hollow Student Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

Owen Dugan, a Sleepy Hollow resident and a senior at Stanford Online High School, has been named a 2021 U.S Presidential Scholar. Dugan is one of 161 students nationwide, and one of only four from New York, to receive this recognition. These students are recognized for their exceptional achievements, unconditional service and outstanding character.

Dugan attended Sleepy Hollow’s local elementary school, Washington Irving, since the third grade. Janet Rivera, one of his dual language assistant teachers, noticed his uniqueness from the beginning.

“There was always one thing I would always catch Owen doing,” Rivera said. “He was always looking into space, but what others didn’t realize is that Owen’s brain moved a lot faster than others, so when he stared into space, that was him thinking. Which I always encouraged.” Rivera said she always noticed a student’s uniqueness and encouraged them to run with it.

“Ms. Rivera was always interested in what I was learning even though it wasn’t the most consequential thing for a third-grader,” Dugan said. “And it really inspired me to be interested in physics.”

Dugan pursued this inspiration and fell in love with physics and computer science, which he will be studying at MIT this fall. He has excelled in the academic world, completing over 20 AP and collegiate-level classes at Stanford Online High School. The high school, run by Stanford University, is a highly selective independent school, where instructors help students pursue their passions in real-time, online seminars.

Dugan has also been conducting artificial intelligence research at MIT, particle physics research at Columbia University, and has been developing a neural network to identify illnesses. Dugan is also in the process of preparing two additional papers relating to the interpretable neural networks for publication and neutrino research.

Dugan wants to share his knowledge with the world. “Owen is one of the smartest, most intelligent, humblest and big-hearted people I know,” Rivera said. Dugan has been giving back to his community since the seventh grade, becoming an instructor for programming and robotics at an after school care mission, and helping in the after school dual language program at Washington Irving.

Dugan also has other interests. He loves to mountain bike, sail and play basketball. Dugan is also skilled at the piano and on guitar. He has also found a love of astronomy and enjoys looking at the stars through his telescope on a starry night

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About the Author: Olivia Valdes