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updated: 5/8/2013 6:26 PM

Northwest suburban students earn Merit Scholar awards

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Daily Herald report

Eleven Northwest suburban high school students have been chosen from among of 15,000 outstanding students nationwide for the prestigious Merit Scholar designation, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has announced.

The 11 are among 2,500 scholars from across the country to earn the distinction, as well as a $2,500 scholarship, through the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program.

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The winners are judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. They were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by both the finalists and their high schools: the academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.

Scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university.

This year's competition for National Merit Scholarships began in October 2011 when

approximately 1.5 million juniors in some 22,000 high schools took the Preliminary SAT/National

Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than 1

percent of the nation's high school seniors, were named semifinalists. From the semifinalist group, 15,000 students met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition.

The Northwest suburban honorees are:

• Vivek K. Shah, of Arlington Heights and Hersey High School. Probable career field: Biomedical Engineering.

• Michael J. Borde, of Barrington and Barrington High School. Probable career field: Academia

• Saieesh A. Rao, of Buffalo Grove and the Illinois Math and Science Academy. Probable career field: Biochemistry

• Aaron D. Zalewski, of Buffalo Grove and Stevenson High School. Probable career field: Science/Research

• Mark G. Zhang, of Buffalo Grove and Stevenson High School. Probable career field: Medicine

• Benjamin F. Brissette, of Des Plaines and Maine West High School. Probable career field: Education (College Professor)

• Anne Marie Urban, of Des Plaines and Willows Academy. Probable career field: Biology

• Shivani Jagarlamudi, of Hoffman Estates and Fremd High School. Probable career field: Finance

• Jihoon Kim, of Inverness and Barrington High School. Probable career field: Neuroscience

• Chris Mathew of Mount Prospect and Prospect High School. Probable career field: Medicine

• Fiona M. Helgren, of Palatine and Fremd High School. Probable career field: Law Enforcement

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