71 Palo Alto students National Merit semifinalists

Honored students -- 30 from Gunn, 28 from Paly, 13 from Castilleja -- among 16,000 who are top 1 percent of PSAT test-takers nationwide

Thirty seniors from Gunn High School and 28 seniors from Palo Alto High School have been named as semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition.

An additional 108 students from Paly and Gunn were named "commended students."

At Castilleja School, 13 girls were named semifinalists and 17 commended students.

The semifinalists were among the top 1 percent of scorers nationwide on the 2009 Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), used as a screening tool for the scholarship program.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists includes the highest-scoring PSAT test-takers in each state in proportion to that state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

Semifinalists are qualified to advance to the finalist competition, which concludes with 8,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $36 million awarded next spring.

About 1.5 million juniors in 22,000 high schools took the PSAT last fall, yielding the 16,000 semifinalists named last week.

At Gunn, they are:

Yasmin Aghajan, Elliot Akama-Garren, Morris A. Alper, Jack Barbeau, Vivek H. Choksi, Sophia Christel, Bryan Chu, Jeffrey D. Common, Emma Dohner, Laurel Howard, Connie Hsueh, Anish Johri, Noelle J. Jung, Atsuhide Kobashi, Nikhl S. Lele, Andrew B. Liu, Stephanie H. Liu, Xinping J. Ma, Celine V. Nguyen, Derek Nielsen, Andrew Qian, Gayan S. Seneviratna, William R. Strickfaden, Adam L. Tong, Stephanie L. Tsai, Catherine D. Wu, Linda Yu, Brian Zhang, Sylvia Zhang and Sarah-Jean Zubair.

At Paly, they are:

Samuel Bellows, Pierre Bourbonnais, George Brown, Rachel Capelouto, Cristina Carano, Lucas Chan, Chloe Chen, Dennis Chen, Ava Dordi, Gadi Cohen, Margot Gerould, Andrew Hammer, Yun Hong, Kevin Hu, Sarah Jacobs, Stephen Koo, Steven Lai, Albert Lin, Dustin Nizamian, Hannah Ohlson, Nathan Pinsker, Mark Raftrey, Ryan Rasti, Tyralyn Tran, Samara Trilling, Quinn Walker, Michael Yuan and Scott Zhuge.

Commended students are:

Regina E. Ahn, Willa K. Akey, Adam R. Alloy, Amelia R. Bell, Emily Benatar, Sydney L. Bennet, Elizabeth L. Berg, Brian Xue, Kyu Chul Chang, Daniel Chen, Sheng-Han Chen, Lucia R. Christiansen, Michelle S. Chung, Lance H. Cummins, Noa T. Dagan, Samuel Dawson, Naor J. Deleanu, Coline M. Devin, Emma C. Difilippo, Julia J. Edholm, Emily R. Efland, Nadav T. Gavrielov, Isabel M. Giovacchini, Zachary I. Gromoff, Youyang Gu, Mattan Hamou, Benjamin W. Hendricks, Audrey W. Ho, Michael Hooton, Julia M. Howard, Ching-Hsiu Hsu, Xi Hua, Athena Y. Huang, Gippum Hwang;

Emily Ingham, Noosheen Javadi, Callista A. German, Paula Jun, Sarah L. Jundt, Paula Jung, Mira Khanna, David Khavari, Erin K. Kiekhaefer, Lori A. Krakirian, Maya R. Krasnow, Priya S. Kshirsagar, Ami Kumar, Sahana Kumar, Ruaire J. Lavelle, Christopher J. Lee, Ho Won Lee, Reade M. Levinson, Joyce C. Li, Xinran Li, Sarah Liang, Max F. Lipscomb, Chloe Lischinsky, Christopher B. Liu, Elaine Y. Liu, Rebekah Liu, Miriam Livshits, Renjie Long;

Claire Mahany, Jonathan A. Marson, Annette R. Marvin, Erin Mast, Alexandra Messick-Kopel, Rachel Mewes, Grace R. Mi, Michael Morton, Hannah Murphy, Ruhi Nath, Kayla Neumeyer, Shelby Newman, Susan U. Nitta, Derek E. O'Connor, Elise N. Oh, Colin M. Palmquist, Anthony D. Panayides, Nicola Park, Shannon M. Paulson, Roxanne H. Rahnama, Divya Ramakrishnan, Joshua Rapperport, Matthew M. Redfield, Karen A. Reitman, Michael E. Reitman, Manuela Richter, Sydney C. Rock, Rory S. Runser, Sam E. Rusoff, Sonali T. Sastry, Elizabeth J. Sawka, Thomas M. Seidel, Alexander J. Sholtz, Edward W. Siu, Artem A. Skorokhodov, Neil Sood, Jodi Y. So, Zachary A. Stanton-Savitz, Ione A. Sterental, Melissa Sun, Leon Z. Sung;

Julia J. Tang, Katherine A. Torrey, Yu-Chun Tsai, Anna Von Clemm, Camille D. Von Kaenel, Manon L. Von Kaenel, Reed A. Wanderman-Milne, Linda Wang, Matthew Wang, Matthew Q. Wen, Christina E. Wettersten, Ian M. Wilkes, Lillian Xie, Charles D. Yang, Elaine Y. Yau, Donald Zhang, Kevin Zhang, Emily Zheng, Michael J. Zhou.

Last year, Paly and Gunn had an unusually high number of National Merit semi-finalists. Paly had 46 and Gunn had 41, representing nearly 10 percent of the 2010 graduating class.

At Castilleja, semifinalists are Divya Bhat, Sophie Brown, Rachel Brownell, Grace Chen, Courtney Chuang, Charlotte Geaghan-Briener, Camila McHugh, Sonali Mehta, Brenna Nelsen, Hannah Nesbat, Carey (Virginia) Phelps, Rachel Skokowski and Emily Steemers.

Commended students at Castilleja are Sayeh Bozorghadad, Anna Cardinal, Megan Costello, Clare Dreyfus, Claire Fraisl, Mariel Freyre, Emily Hayflick, Maya Khatri, Sophia Koontz, Tobi Amos, Maya Maniar, Mona Matsumoto-Ryan, Stephanie Merenbach, Laura Rose, Abby Thornburg, Sallie Walecka and Amy Yamamura.

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Like this comment
Posted by congratulations
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:09 am

Congratulations, students!

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:13 am

Congratulations to all these hard working wonderful students and teachers. But WHY did the Weekly have to compare this group to last years honorees? "Yes, wonderful.....BUT..." Now upset parents will be on the phone this morning AND on this site fretting about 'what went wrong between this year and last year" AND where did the school and teachers 'fail'. Please don't. Honor all the the students and their accomplishments. "Zip your lip", live in the moment, and count the PAUSD's and city's blessing.

Like this comment
Posted by fyi
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm

just something to think about. regarding the comment on the # of honorees from last year paly had more semi finalists. this year gunn had more.
this helps balance the "competitive" people who like to compare the 2 schools although such a comparison is totally meaningless, it's the palo alto way.

Like this comment
Posted by Flavors
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I would not go so far as to call these students "hard working [sic]." Hard work has nothing to do with performance on the PSAT. I guarantee you, most of those on the list here did nothing to prepare for the test. Good performance on the test hinges partially upon intelligence, but mostly upon skill.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I do think many of them studied. My child is not on the list (which is O.K. by me), but I do know that she spent a LOT of time with one of the "winners", consoling this student often, because her parents were putting major pressure on her and demanding huge amounts of study time.

Like this comment
Posted by nomeanings
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2010 at 9:00 am

most of the students did not prepare for this psat. i guess the actual sat test score would be much different from psat.some kids got a good score on psat but a not so good one on actual score. yes it makes no meanings for psat, mostly for pure luck.

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Oct 6, 2010 at 9:30 am

My kid's SAT was well above these cutoffs, but not the PSAT. I will take that result, thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by We never learn
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Palo Alto Weekly still honors academic achievement for those students whose parents can afford extra tutoring so they can do well. This is what creates competitiveness in our district. Also it enforces teachers to spend time on these students and not on the ones who learn slower or who have a different way to learn, or who do not have parents who spent thousands of dollars on extra tutoring.
Students should be recognized for other reasons, not for academic achievement or the kind of university they are trying to get in. Shame on all of us.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 6, 2010 at 11:51 am

Students should be recognized for ALL reasons and that includes academic achievement.

My child made the list with no prior studying or spending a dime on tutors, and the actual SAT scores were even higher than that of the PSAT scores.

Not every student's competitiveness or love of learning comes from the parents, I know a lot of students who are self motivated and passionate about their academic subjects. I think they do deserve acknowledgment for that.

I don't think it is wise to blame every unfortunate situation on academic stress without knowing all of the fact.

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Semifinalist
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 7, 2010 at 4:40 pm

To refute previous comments: many of my peers started studying for the SAT before taking the PSAT, so it's not like most of these people walked in and took the test cold. I would not go so far as to say that PSAT performance has nothing to do with being hard-working. A good number of my friends studied. People know that it matters, at least a little bit.

Like this comment
Posted by PA Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 7, 2010 at 11:58 pm

@ We Never Learn,

If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. People move to Palo Alto for the academics and were doing so 40 years ago when I moved to PA.

There are plenty of SAT workbooks available. One does not need to hire a tutor for their child to do well.

Thanks to Gunn semifinalist for sharing the information which is also what a Paly parent told me.

We took the PSAT during sophomore year. When and why did they change it to junior year, the same year they take the SATs?

Like this comment
Posted by gunn student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 8, 2010 at 11:51 am

Well I studied for the PSAT and the SAT and I'm a semi-finalist and I think it's directly because I studied.

After I studied for the SAT on my own (no expensive tutors/classes), I took the SAT for the first time and my score improved 510 points. from a mock SAT i had taken the year before.

Like this comment
Posted by paly student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm

@we never learn, "Students should be recognized for other reasons, not for academic achievement"... are you actually serious? students who are naturally quick learners are not in the same level of classes as slower students, and are therefore not competing with them for teachers' time and effort. But that's completely unrelated to the article.

As for honoring people whose "parents spent thousands of dollars on extra tutoring", I'm sure there were a few crazies who studied for the psat (although I'm curious to know where you're getting your info on tutor costs). However, I went into the test never having seen an SAT or PSAT, and such was the case with many of my friends who were on the list.

I don't understand why you're making an issue about this (and sorry to add to the bickering) but I felt compelled to respond since you clearly have an issue with kids being recognized for intelligence/drive.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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