Vandegrift scholars earn National Merit recognition

National Hispanic Scholars:
Stefano Bonilla, Maximilian Deitrick, Camille Gutierrez, Matias Latorre Duque, Brianna Navas, Camden Perez, Marley Price, Orianna Santucci, Cameron Segura, Grant Shaffer, Elena Wilson. LYNETTE HAALAND

By PEYTON KLAM, Vandegrift Voice

Vandegrift has a number of seniors awarded by the National Merit Recognition program this year including 14 seniors who are National Merit Semifinalists and 43 who are National Merit Commended Scholars, and 11 seniors are National Hispanic Scholars. The results are based on PSAT/NMSQT scores from last school year.

“National Merit boasts these students as ‘Scholastic Champions’,” Dean of Instruction Christa Martin said. “We are very proud of our Viper Champions and their exemplary academic performance. These prestigious accolades can broaden academic opportunities giving an edge on college admissions and opening doors for generous scholarship offers.”

Viper students who qualified as National Merit Semifinalists represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors who scored a 221 or higher on the PSAT they took their junior year. There are approximately 16,000 Semifinalists nationwide. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered in the spring.

Vandegrift’s National Merit Commended Scholars are students who placed among the top 5 percent of more than 1.6 million students for more than 22,000 high schools who entered the National Merit competition by taking the PSAT in the fall of their junior year.

VHS also celebrates its 2018 National Hispanic Scholars who were identified through the College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program. This program identifies academically outstanding Hispanic/Latino high school students on their PSAT performance. Each year, the program honors 5,000 of the highest-scoring students from over 250,000 Hispanic/Latino seniors who ranked among the highest on their junior year PSAT.

The scholarly Vipers were recognized during halftime at the Nov. 2 football game.

“It was really nice to be honored,” senior Jen Moore said. “We all worked really hard for this accomplishment so it meant a lot to be recognized.”

National Merit is  is a nonprofit organization for scholarship competition and university scholarships through College Board. The annual National Merit Scholarship Program is in its 64th year.  

“The students who were selected as semifinalist had to then apply to be a finalist,” Moore said. “If they are selected as finalists, there are merit based scholarships that come with it.”

As a National Merit Scholar, students are awarded a $2,500 scholarship, but that is only a small part of the award. Some colleges will give scholars 50 percent scholarships or even full rides if they are a National Merit finalist, allowing some students to pursue colleges outside of state.

“It was really amazing to be able to expand my college search beyond Texas,” senior Camden Perez said. “It is an honor to have these full rides or half pay at some of these great universities.”

The district coordinators made sure that whether or not students were in a PSAT class, they would still be familiar with the curriculum on the test.

“Preparation is done behind the scenes on a district curriculum level,” Martin said. “They do a great job, it shows here at Vandegrift. The PSAT class during PIT has improved kids on the abilities to take the PSAT and make sure to hit the topics that they usually struggle on.”

Some of the finalist already have a plan for after high school and they plan to use their National Merit Scholarship to help them out.

“It benefits me a lot,” senior Carlos Alvarez-Roth said. “It’s a great thing for me to have on my resume, since I plan to study in screen acting some colleges will look at me as studious. Having the National Merit will reiterate that I will not only benefit the university as an actor but also as a hardworking student.

Lynette Haaland contributed to this report and took the photos.

There are 14 Vandegrift seniors who are National Merit Semifinalists — representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors — based on their PSAT scores: Paul Clukey, Bo Deng, Varun Gorti, Connor Gray, Grace Hedges, Raymond Hong, Navya Janga, Matias Latorre Duque, Daniel Lee, Caroline Li, Brandon Sheneman, Andrew Tang, Michael Tsoi, Lucy Xu

National Merit Commended Scholars:
Neel Agarwal, Hamza Ali, Carlos Alvarez-Roth, Pranav Batra, Gauri Bellur, Lauren Brideau, Justine Do, Parker Fannin, William Fontana, Cheyenne Fryar, Lyndon Grayson, Kunal Gupta, Ryan Hollaway, Adelaide Johnson, Abhinav Karnati, Francis Kim, Shreya Kolli, Samantha Kosumsuppamala, Kyle Legg, Hemanth Madduri, Lauren Maunder, Jared McArthur, Brooke McArthur, Lauryn McCosky, Tristan McKeefery, Jennifer Moore, Mikhayla Osborne, Katherine Osborne, Samantha Overhauser, Mahi Patel, Ryan Radloff, Kyle Sabuda, Grant Shaffer, Cole Smith, Madeline Smyser, Annabella Stavrou, Kathryn Stephens, Sarah Tersigni, Priya Thomas, Armando Tomlinson, Zachary Weiss, Elena Wilson, George Young