2020 National Merit Semifinalist

Melissa Nong the lone QCHS student to achieve the exclusive honor.
Posted on 09/11/2019
Melissa Nong is photographed in the high school library with (from left) Principal Mattias van’t Hoenderdaal, counselor Eric Gozzard and assistant principal Jason Magditch.By Gary Weckselblatt

Out of 1.5 million students who entered the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program, Quakertown Community High School senior Melissa Nong is one of only 16,000 to become a Semifinalist.

Her 1500 score on the 2018 Preliminary SAT, which served as an initial screen of program entrants, is achieved by fewer than one percent of today’s U.S. high school seniors.

Melissa is the school’s lone qualifier and one of only two students from the three Upper Bucks County districts to achieve the exclusive honor, along with Abigail Cozza of Pennridge.

“If someone would have told me that one person from our school would get this, I wouldn’t think it would be me,” Melissa said. “I’m in a state of shock.”

The educators who know her best, however, feel quite differently.

“She’s a fantastic kid, highly intelligent with great people skills,” said Eric Gozzard, Melissa’s counselor. “She’s involved in many, many school entities and is a real asset to our school and community. Melissa is extremely personable and easy to work with.”

Assistant Principal Jason Magditch said “Melissa is a great student and will continue to do great things beyond the walls of QCHS.”

Mattias van’t Hoenderdaal, QCHS’s new principal, said Melissa’s dedication has led “to an opportunity that is going to open doors for her. She has made quite an impression, and this honor is well deserved.”

Melissa, who was born in Vietnam and came to Quakertown as an infant, attended Tohickon Valley Elementary School and Strayer Middle School before QCHS.

She has shown exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies, which the National Merit Scholarship Program is looking for. Besides academics, Melissa seeks out opportunities to help others less fortunate.

Melissa is involved in several clubs and activities, including treasurer of the National Honor Society, Key Club, Mandarin Club, Math Club, and is captain of the tennis team.

Her academic load this semester includes six Advanced Placement courses: biology, calculus, computer science, U.S. government, literature and Mandarin. She’s also taking a sociology class at Lehigh University. Melissa was part of the district’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and has been involved in several food drives.

After scoring 1480 on the SAT last October, she took it again in November and achieved 1550 out of 1600. She encourages students who want to improve their scores to explore Khan Academy. She said it was her “best friend in the summer.” Data suggests that 20 hours of personalized official SAT practice on Khan Academy leads to, on average, a 115-point increase.

Melissa plans to apply to Rice University and the University of Pennsylvania to study medicine. “It will definitely be something in the medical field,” she said.

Last year, four QCHS students were recognized for their academic success. Mikayla Fuentes and Adria Retter each qualified as National Merit Scholarship Finalists. Nam Le and Hailey Reiss each received a Letter of Commendation for their outstanding performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying test.

To become a Finalist, Melissa and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about her academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. Melissa must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm her earlier performance on the qualifying test.

“I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” she said.

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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