Phoenix Union High School District Students Recognized By National Merit Scholarship Corporation

Posted by Communications on 11/9/2017

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation recognizes top students throughout the country in a few different ways, based on their PSAT test scores.  There are National Merit Scholars, National Merit Commended students, and National Hispanic Recognition Scholars. This year, seven North High students have received such honors.

North has one National Merit Scholar semifinalist- Nihar Dalal.  Dalal is a straight-A student and will be North’s valedictorian.  He received a perfect score of 800 on his PSAT math subject test, and a 36 out of 36 on his ACT.  His passion is math and physics and he wants to use his talent as a Wall Street market Analyst or mathematician.  He has spent summers at universities, studying number theory at Brown Univ., calculus at ASU and more math at Boston College last summer. He is currently taking the highest level of math offered in our District. He is North’s newspaper editor, plays tennis for the Mustangs, is president of both the science and math clubs, is on the robotics team, and is a peer tutor for other North students.   Dalal, whose family came from India in 2014, is interested in attending Harvey Mudd in California, Williams in Mass., or Rice University.

National Merit semifinalists qualify by being among the highest-scoring entrants in each state in the 2016 PSAT/NMSQT.   The 16,000 semifinalists this year represent less than one percent of the 1.5 million juniors from over 22,000 high schools who take the PSAT.  National Merit Finalists are highly coveted as prospective students to every college and university in the country.  About 90% of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists become finalists, according to the NMSC.  


North High has three National Merit Commended Students--Maxwell Sweet, Daniel Nguyen and Bryan Ibanez.

Sweet is also an IB student, with impressive credentials…a 1530 SAT score, an 800 top score in math, and a 33 of 36 on his ACT.  He wants to become a neuroscientist or neuro engineer but he might also explore a career in international economics.  He is the treasurer for the robotics club, the number one chess player on the North Chess team, and will be a four-year letterman in baseball.  He also works up to 32 hours a week.   Sweet wants to attend UCLA, where his sister is a swim coach.

Nguyen’s favorite classes are physics and mathematics so it’s no surprise that he wants to become an aerospace engineer.  He would like to work on a large rocketry project someday, or something having to do with astronomy and aviation. He has been involved in robotics, the chess club and peer tutoring at North.  He is hoping to attend USC, or ASU as a backup plan, and major in aerospace engineering.

Ibanez is also in the International Baccalaureate program.  He is the secretary of the robotics club, and lists biology and history as his two favorite classes.  He is still undecided on a career, but he is leaning toward match, mechanical engineering or economics, and eventually would like to go to law school.  ASU is his school of choice at this point.

National Merit Scholarship Commended students represent about 34,000 of the approximately 50,000 high scorers on the PSAT, and receive letters of Commendation in recognition of their outstanding academic promise.

Since 1990, North High has had 97 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and finalists and 126 Commended students.  

North has four National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars:  Erik Barraza, Sabrina Bojorquez, Rosario Peralta and  Ibanez,  is also a Commended Student.

Barraza has an interest in science and politics, with a little marching band music mixed in.  He is the historian and webmaster for the Robotics team, and a member of the Mustang Marching Band.  He has also done fieldwork as an intern for the Arizona Democratic Party, working on numerous campaigns.  He has also been a research intern for ASU, providing assistance on lab research in geochemistry/thermodynamics.  He is interested in pursuing a career in medicine, with a specific focus on oncology or neurology. 

Bojorquez is busy with theatre, as co-president of the drama club, and acting in several plays.  She is also in the science club and the hiking club.  She says she did not study for the PSAT but her score and Recognition Scholar designation didn’t surprise her, or her parents, who simply said, “good job.”  Bojorquez would like to study environmental engineering at UCLA or ASU and travel the world, doing fieldwork providing clean drinking water for everyone.

Peralta’s favorite courses are biology, history and she is the layout editor for the school newspaper.  She competes in cross country and track, and is active in the ‘No Place for Hate’ club, and as the Peer Leadership program president.  She wants to be a veterinarian, specializing in exotic animals. She once owned a bearded dragon.  She plans to major in biology for pre-vet, perhaps at the Univ. of Arizona, and UC-Davis, for vet school.  

National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars are among the top 5,000 scorers among the 250,000 Hispanic/Latino juniors who take the PSAT test.  The program is an academic honor that can be included on college applications. It is not a scholarship, but colleges do use this program to identify academically exceptional Hispanic/Latino students.