Rising Star

by Chris Wangler

April 25, 2022

A Harvard-bound WHS senior with a passion for the performing arts and Shakespeare has earned a rare honor.

Eliza Zangerl-Salter has been named a semifinalist in the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program by the U.S. Department of Education Commission on Presidential Scholars. The finalists will be named in mid-May.

Eliza was nominated by WHS, then by the state’s education commissioner. After submitting essays, she made the cut as one of 620 semifinalists nationwide from a field of 5,000, She is 1 of 6 from Massachusetts.

“I feel that my teachers and community members have prepared me to achieve my personal and educational goals and I’m so proud to be representing Waltham High School and our community on a national scale,” said Eliza.

She plans to attend Harvard, but was also accepted by other top schools, including Yale, Columbia, Amherst, Brown and Williams.

We first caught notice of Eliza years ago when she performed in the Waltham Idol singing competition at the Boys & Girls Club. 

She was involved with Reagle Music Theatre for years and even appeared in a TV ad that ran a few years ago across the region.

At Waltham High School, Eliza serves as president of the WHS National Honor Society. 

She is also involved in a wide range of extracurricular activities, including show choir, step, student government and as a performer in every school play, musical and dance theater production.

Eliza is passionate about Shakespeare, founding the WHS Shakespeare club and producing and directing Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello

At Harvard, she intends to take a double major in English and Theatre, synthesizing her interest in theatre and literature.

“I want to be a college English professor with a focus on Shakespearean performance, gaining as much stage experience as I can along the way,” Eliza said. 

“I believe that, as Shakespeare intended his plays to be performed rather than read in a classroom, it is necessary to study the theatrics of his work in conjunction with its literary analysis.”

She also hopes to use her writing skills to publish novels and plays one day.

Established in 1964, the presidential scholars program aims to “recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors.” 

In 1979, the program was expanded to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts.

Courtesy photo