Chenoa Yorgason and Cooper Schwartz are among those students in Hawaii who have achieved the highest qualifying college-readiness test scores, making them eligible for scholarships in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program and the prestigious Merit Scholar title.
Out of 1.5 million students who entered the program nationwide, only 16,000 have attained semifinalist status.
This scholarship program recognizes students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in demanding college studies. About 8,000 scholarships worth $35 million will be awarded.
Schwartz, 17, achieved a perfect 800 on his SAT writing score this year, and a total SAT score of 2300 out of a possible 2400. On average, seniors score about 1400 total.
Yorgason, 16, scored 34 on the ACT, which converts to 2250 to 2310 on the SAT, she said. She began kindergarten in Hauula Elementary’s Hawaiian Language Immersion Program, and speaks English, Mandarin Chinese and Hawaiian. Her academic record puts her in the No. 1 spot in her class with a cumulative 4.190 GPA.
“By the time I graduate, I’ll have taken every AP class offered by my school and three more AP classes online,” she said. Named an AP Scholar with Distinction, she has won awards for creative writing, and speech and debate, for which she serves as the captain. Yorgason’s knowledge of the U.S. Constitution helped Kahuku’s We the People team capture first place in the state competition last year.
The teacher who has most greatly influenced her is Pam Palmer, her AP English teacher, Yorgason said. She credits Palmer and her English language, composition and creative writing classes with exposing her to numerous authors and perspectives, and improving her writing methods. “Mrs. Palmer helped me realize that … improvements can always be made and that genuine hard work can produce great results.”
Yorgason wants to attend college in the New England area; possibly double major in political science, and women’s and gender studies; and become a professor.
Schwartz has consecutively earned straight A’s since the 10th grade, received an AP Scholar award and has already been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh. He’s still applying to about 30 other colleges, specifically those that accept seniors for medical school when they’re accepted as undergraduates – an eight-year-long track. “These programs are ridiculously competitive,” Schwartz said.
The varsity paddling team member wants to earn a Ph.D. and conduct medical research. Last summer, he participated in Boston University’s research in science and engineering program, conducting biochemical research with professors.
Schwartz is the youngest person in the U.S. to get certified as a computer voice stress analysis (CVSA) technician. CVSA detects stress in the voice and law enforcement uses it to identify deception. He obtained certification at age 13.
He, too, feels most influenced by Mrs. Palmer. “If I hadn’t taken her class, I probably wouldn’t have become a semifinalist or gotten the SAT score that I have,” he said. “I used to hate English. Her class helped me improve my writing and reading comprehension skills immensely and made the subject more enjoyable.”
“We recognize and are proud of Cooper Schwartz and Chenoa Yorgason for emulating the high academic standards of Kahuku High and Intermediate School,” said Annette Ostrem, Kahuku interim principal. “We celebrate their hard work.”
Scholarship finalists will be notified in February 2014. The winners will be announced from April through July.
Windward District Office | Castle-Kahuku Complexes
Hawaii State Department of Education
P: (808) 233-5700
F: (808) 233-5709