Avinash Paul: QCHS National Merit Semifinalist

The QCHS senior’s test scores ranked in the top 1 percent of seniors in the United States.
Posted on 09/17/2021
Avinash Paul is the lone QCHS student to achieve National Merit Scholar Semifinalist status for 2022. By Gary Weckselblatt

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has named Quakertown Community High School senior Avinash Paul a semifinalist in its prestigious program for 2022.

Avinash is one of 16,000 semifinalists who represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. His remarkable 1490 score on the 2020 Preliminary SAT gives him the opportunity to
continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30
million that will be offered next spring.

His reaction upon receiving word from NMSC? “Super happy when I saw the email certificate,” he said. “My parents were also very happy and proud of me. They said ‘All of your hard work has paid off.’ ”

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. For example, Avinash and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about his academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. He 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 his earlier performance on the qualifying test.

The SAT won’t be a problem. One year ago he scored 1590 out of a possible 1600 on his SAT. “I was one math question away,” Avinash said.

Principal Mattias van’t Hoenderdaal was excited about Avinash’s accomplishment. “Avinash is a very detailed and focused student,” he said. “He never shies away from a challenge, has immersed himself in the school community and is an outstanding example for his fellow students to follow. This recognition is well deserved.”

Counselor Eric Gozzard described Avinash as “extremely goal-oriented. He wants to make an impact on this world.”

Avinash does indeed have lofty goals. He’s applied to Amherst, Brown, Colgate, Haverford, Penn State, Vassar and William & Mary. Whichever school he attends will have accepted him into its accelerated medical program, he said.

“I’m not sure what kind of doctor I’ll be,” he said, “but I want to study neuroscience.”

Quakertown has helped pique his interest in that profession. A former volunteer at St. Luke’s Hospital, Avinash will be back there twice a week as part of the high school’s Medical Career Pathways Program.

In addition, his 3.95 GPA is lifted to 4.2 because of his rigorous class schedule, which has included Advanced Placement classes such as Human Geography, World History, Chemistry, Biology and Calculus AB.

“I just love math with its whole universe of possibilities and theories,” he said. “So many different theories, branches and applications, and everything’s related. And I see it all in everyday life.”

A member of the National Honor Society, Avinash’s interests vary. From third grade until the start of the pandemic, he studied Taekwondo and is a 2nd-degree black belt. With friend Austin Hunsberger, he created anime club at the high school. He also practices the art of calligraphy.

And he has even volunteered to help teach a class when familiar with the topic. During a study of world religions, Avi volunteered to talk about Hinduism in his AP World History class.

“He was fantastic,” said Jason Anderson, who teaches the course. “Avinash has a great demeanor and explained it better than I ever could. He was able to have a dialogue with the class. He gave his time and effort to help expand everyone’s knowledge. It was awesome.”

Mr. Anderson called Avinash “a very passionate learner, very driven. He wants to maintain academic rigor.”

Avinash said he has really appreciated the district’s teaching staff from his days at Trumbauersville Elementary, Strayer Middle School and QCHS. He mentioned Mr. Anderson as “a great guy with a great sense of humor” and said the recently retired Janet Bassett “is such an awesome lady. She made learning just incredible.

“Having teachers who love teaching is the greatest,” he added. “The quality of education in Quakertown is very good. I’ve come this far so surely they must be doing something right.”

In recent years, QCHS has been well represented by National Merit Scholars who advanced from semifinalist to finalist. Last year it was Michael Dennis. In 2020 it was Melissa Nong. The prior year Mikayla Fuentes and Adria Retter each achieved the rare designation.

Each year, students who just missed the semifinalist level received a Letter of Commendation for their outstanding performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Last year, Matt Catalano and Veronika Durr each received a letter. In 2020, Ian Cummings, Tyler Einolf and Sierra Lee, each received a letter. In 2019, Nam Le and Hailey Reiss were commendable.

Later this month, QCHS will learn if any students achieved commendable status for 2022.

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 gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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