Several area students have received well-deserved recognition as semifinalists for the 67th annual National Merit Scholarship program. Created in 1955, the award recognizes academically talented students and their accomplishments.
Semifinalists from Xavier and Brophy Prep are among 16,000 high schoolers nationwide to advance in the prestigious program, culminating in $2,500 scholarships awarded to about 7,500 finalists every year. Students must have a qualifying PSAT score to apply for the scholarship.
Xavier has three National Merit semifinalists this year: Theresa Borlongan, Aliyah Chutkan, and Helena Richardson.
Theresa plans to major in biomedical engineering and pursue a career in medicine.
“I honestly still can’t believe it. I am both very honored and grateful for all the ways that school and my family have supported me in every step of my academic journey,” Theresa said. “If anything, I feel that this award constantly pushes me to continue working hard in my studies.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Theresa said she would be forever thankful for her time at Xavier, as she loves the atmosphere of an all-girls school.
“Being surrounded by a community of strong females is incredibly empowering and has helped me build my self-confidence,” she said. “I have the comfort of knowing that in the relationships I have built over the past four years, I will always be backed up through all my achievements, failures, and disappointments.”
Fellow senior Aliyah Chutkan said she is excited about the scholarship and her future after graduating.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity and happy all my hard work paid off,” Aliyah said. “Through Xavier, I have met so many amazing people, including some of my closest friends.”
After taking part in Xavier’s Great Books program and studying multivariable calculus, Aliyah looks forward to college on the east coast, where she plans to major in physics.
“I want to learn more about the world and become more well-read about issues facing my generation,” she said.
Helena said that exploring subjects like English, math, and science has been her favorite part of her time at Xavier.
“I feel fortunate to go to a school that offers so many AP classes,” Helena said. “I’ve also had some wonderful teachers who have inspired me, and my counselor is absolutely terrific.”
Helena hopes to major in computer science and minor in biology, psychology, or statistics in college, although she’s keeping an open mind for the future.
“I would love to find a job in which I can merge my interests and apply computer science to other sciences,” she added.
Brophy students Kaden Stillwagon, Louis Narducci, and Dashiell Gardner were named 2022 National Merit semifinalists.
Kaden acknowledges how great it feels to receive recognition for his dedicated academic studies.
“I’m happy that my test score reflected the enormous effort I’ve put into school and that I’m able to be recognized with this honor,” Kaden said. “I’m also incredibly excited to see what opportunities this recognition opens for me as I begin applying for colleges.”
Kaden wants to study computer science, artificial intelligence and neuroscience in college.
“My school is dedicated to providing the best possible education for my peers and me,” Kaden said. “The teachers and coaches I’ve had the pleasure of learning under at Brophy are second to none.”
Classmate Louis was surprised to hear he was selected at the scholarship announcement this fall.
“I knew how few people actually receive this distinction, so I was excited to be a part of that select few,” Louis said. “I know myself and others who were named semifinalists have worked extremely hard throughout high school, so this is a huge accomplishment for us.”
With interests in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Louis is glad he had the chance to expand his horizons at Brophy.
“I love my school because of the opportunities it has given me, whether that’s through the different courses available to me, the many sports I have been able to play, or the new friends I have made,” Louis said. “All my teachers and coaches here are committed to my future.”
Dashiell, who is passionate about social justice work, singing, and psychology research, says he was shocked to learn he was a semifinalist. He hopes to continue his studies and pursue a degree in psychology, leaving the door open for a career in law, teaching or counseling.
“My favorite things about Brophy are the opportunities it’s given me in my passions. I don’t know any other high school where I’d be able to go to our nation’s capital to protest Title 42 and advocate for migrant justice or have one-on-one support in researching how interrogations can cause false confessions,” Dashiell said. “I’m immensely grateful for all my school has done for me, and I know I’ll never forget everything I accomplished here.”
Like his Brophy peers, Dashiell has promising plans for the future no matter what lies ahead with the scholarship or college.
“This might sound a bit cliché, but my goals for the future are to leave as big of an impact on others as they’ve had on me,” Dashiell said. “That’s why becoming a professor, lawyer, or psychologist is incredibly appealing to me. It would allow me to instill a love for psychology in students just like my AP psych and social psychology teachers did for me.”
Gautam Rai scored in the top one percent of Arizona students when he took the PSAT his junior year. He will advance into the finalist competition in February.
Theodor Kitzenmaier is a National Merit Commended Student. His score placed him in the top 3.3 percent of student scores nationally.
Aaron Bill and Maximo Valencia are National Hispanic Scholars. They both scored in the top 5% of Arizona students of Hispanic heritage on the PSAT.
William Loque, Grace Reed and
Elsa Steen Koppell.