Eastlake High’s Samkange wins prestigious scholarship

Eastlake High School student Austen L. Samkange has won a prestigious minority scholarship through a program run by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Austen was awarded an Achievement Scholarship on April 7 by the National Achievement Scholarship Program. The scholarship, worth $2,500 annually, is awarded based on a regional representation basis, in proportion to the population of Black Americans in each geographic region. Washington state had five winners, with Austen among them. Overall, nearly $2 million dollars were offered to 800 award winners across the country from more than 160,000 applicants.

“We’re proud for Austen, he’s woked hard,” said his father, Harry. “It’s nice for him to get that recognition … He’s always been that kind of student, very inquisitive.”

According to the scholarship press release, Austen hopes one day to enter into the field of education, with a possible career as a College Professor. Both of his grandparents were professors at Harvard and Tufts Universities, said his father.

Austen qualified for the honor through both his minority status and the National Merit Scholarship PSAT testing process, earning a “Commended Scholar” distinction given to just 13 students in his Eastlake High class of 2010. He’ll put the scholarship to use at either the University of Pennsylvania of Stanford University this fall.

Eastlake High School counselor Janet Houghton said the high school senior was an extremely bright student who came from a rich, diverse background. His father is black and his mother is ethnically Japanese. Aside from his 3.93 GPA and charity work with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Houghton noted his Black Belt in Japanese Fencing that brought him a bit of attention on a recent trip to Japan.

“The Japanese were fascinated by him and absolutely attracted to his huge afro,” she said. “He said they kept asking if they could touch it.”

The National Achievement Scholarship Program is a privately financed academic competition established in 1964 specifically to honor scholastically talented Black American youth, and to provide scholarships to a substantial number of the most outstanding participants in the annual National Merit Scholarship competition.