2023 National Merit Finalists from Great Hearts

Great Hearts Academies February 17, 2023

Eight seniors from Great Hearts Arizona and a senior from Great Hearts Texas academies have qualified as National Merit Finalists. Grace Horner (Scottsdale Prep), Raywon Kim (Scottsdale Prep), Travis Santa (Scottsdale Prep), Ibrahim Laleka (North Phoenix Prep), Ian Miranda (Chandler Prep), Pierce Liestenfeltz (Cicero Prep), Luke Murray (Cicero Prep), Emma Smith (Glendale Prep), and Viraj Amaraneni (Great Hearts Northern Oaks) have each been recognized as one of the 15,000 highest scoring entrants of the PSAT, qualifying them for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program as finalists of over 50,000 semifinalists and 1.5 million entrants.

Grace HornerGrace Horner will attend the NAU Honors College and will receive the Lumberjack Scholarship, which covers full tuition for four years. Grace will study forestry and may potentially minor in art. She took many practice PSAT exams to prepare and attended in-person prep classes at Scottsdale Education Center.

Raywon KimRaywon Kim plans to study political science and is waiting to hear back from colleges on his acceptance. Raywon suggests putting yourself in the testing environment prior to test day by taking practice exams at the time of day in which you will be taking the official PSAT or SAT. He also utilized Khan Academy for SAT prep. Raywon said, “The time on test day will go by quicker than you expect, so make sure that you are on a good pace and not spending too much time on any one passage.”

Travis SantaTravis Santa plans to study business and may attend the University of Mississippi or Arizona State University but is waiting to hear back from other colleges. Travis adds, “Juniors should prepare for their PSAT, because being named a National Merit Semifinalist/Finalist can result in many scholarship opportunities.”

Ibrahim Laleka, an avid chess player, plans to become a neurologist. Awaiting admissions decisions from many competitive programs, W.A. Franke Honors College at the University of Arizona is his top in-state choice. Ibrahim spent last summer working as a Research Assistant at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

Ian MirandaIan Miranda was selected for and participated in the TGen Bioscience Leadership Academy this past summer and the Qubit by Qubit’s Introduction to Quantum Computing program.  He is also the captain for a local Robotics team outside of Chandler Prep.  Ian was admitted into ASU Barrett and is still awaiting decisions from UC Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, and several other schools he applied to before he makes his decision on where he will be attending school in the fall.

Pierce LiestenfeltzPierce Liestenfeltz was born in Maryland and plans to attend college on the East Coast. His passion for language, geography, and geopolitics led him to pursue an undergraduate degree in International Relations as an intended major. Pierce values his Cicero Prep Classical Education as a strong foundation for shaping his evolving personal worldview in which he will carry that with him into his post-secondary career.

Luke MurrayLuke Murray is deciding between Hillsdale College and Grove City College as he awaits his admissions decisions on these schools at this time. Luke will go on to study Computer Science during his undergraduate career at his school of choice. Luke has been involved in both the school choir and the Mesa Metropolitan Youth Symphony in which his worldview during the past four years has been impacted by both his love for music as well as the liberal arts curriculum he hopes to continue studying in college.

Emma SmithEmma Smith plans to study an interdisciplinary combination of Classics, Philosophy, History, and Art next year at a college that is still to be determined as she awaits results from scholarship invitations. She advises students to utilizes the free test preparation website Khan Academy to focus in on the areas of the test you need the most practice. Additionally, Emma recommends registering to take an official SAT right after the PSAT since you have done all the preparation.

Viraj AmaraneniViraj Amaraneni has attended Great Hearts Northern Oaks (San Antonio, TX) since it’s inaugural year in 2015. He has been involved in several clubs and organizations including the Griffin Gazette and Model UN, of which he was also the President this past year. Viraj currently has an offer to attend the University of Texas at Austin to study Neuroscience, but he is waiting to hear decisions from universities on the east and west coast before making a final decision on where to matriculate next fall.

“Scoring in the top 1% in the state of Arizona is a very realistic goal for many juniors across the Great Hearts network,” said Great Hearts Director of College Counseling, Roslyn Fletcher. “We expose our high school students to the PSAT early by administering the official PSAT to all 10th grade students across the network. This exposure along with encouraging students to utilize free, personalized test prep through Khan Academy generally result in 6 to 12 Semifinalists/Finalists each year. National Merit Finalists typically have the opportunity to pursue merit scholarships that cover full tuition and sometimes even more at many institutions across the country.”

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