Edina welcomes new National Hispanic Merit Scholars

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Edina welcomes new National Hispanic Merit Scholars

Leo Hickey, staff writer

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Every fall, high performers on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) test receive recognition and a chance to be recognized as a national merit scholar. These scholars are showcased on the front page of the Edina High School website and receive widespread recognition. There is, however, a branch of the National Scholar Program that doesn’t receive the same widespread attention, although to many it is equally, if not more important: The National Hispanic Merit Scholar award for high achieving Hispanic students. “I think [the award] is important because it can help me represent my heritage and other students like me,” senior Christian Ramirez said.

Ramirez is one of five seniors recognized as a Hispanic National Merit Scholar, a title given to students of Hispanic or Latino origin that held a 3.5 GPA or higher during junior year and scored in the top 2.5% of Hispanic or Latino test takers. This is not a simple accomplishment, and many of the scholars commented that the achievement didn’t come without hard work.“I felt like the ACT helped me prepare for the PSAT… I worked really hard in my classes and understand the material. I think that kind of work ethic has paid off,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez, whose father is of Colombian origin, felt that his accomplishment not only meant something for himself but was also significant to the larger group of Hispanic students in America. “I think it’s a culminating award for my work and how it paid off… but I feel there’s still a lot more representation that needs to be done. I think people that need to be recognized are students of Hispanic origin whose test scores aren’t high enough but still work really, really hard,” Ramirez explained.

Even though many students do not know that Ramirez is of Hispanic descent, he still believes the recognition is beneficial. “I think this makes me more proud of my background,” he finished.

The second scholar is Paul Abascal Larson, whose Hispanic heritage plays a large role in his home life. Edina, he believes, well prepared him for this level of achievement. “I’ve been in school for a long time, and I think Edina does a good job of teaching the things you need to know for [the PSAT], Abascal explained.

Abascal, whose father is from Mexico, is immersed in Hispanic culture on a daily basis. “Very few people knew that I was Hispanic,” he explained. “My dad is Mexican, and I have grown up with the culture. My dad and I speak Spanish every day, and we mostly do the Mexican holidays rather than the American ones.” This cultural gap between home and school life, Abascal believes, helps him to gain a broader worldview. “I think my heritage is mind opening because growing up with two cultures makes you appreciate both more, and think about things differently,” Abascal said.

Natalie Bartolomei, another scholar recognized for the award, grew up with a diverse multicultural background that many that know her aren’t aware of. “Not many people knew I was Hispanic; my dad is from Puerto Rico and my mom is from Lebanon. It’s nice to be recognized because I definitely do have that background, my family has that background…I never really felt like I fit into one group.” The recognition, she believes, will allow more people to be informed about her heritage. “I think people know now that I’m Hispanic, and I know now a lot more about the other people who received the recognition,” Bartolomei explained.

However, she emphasized that her family did share hesitations about her fitting in at EHS. “Growing up, I had been always self-conscious about my curly hair… I feel like both my parents kept me very sheltered and didn’t want me to pick an accent or learn another language. My parents both moved to Edina in high school and had a hard time, and they didn’t want anything like that for me,” Bartolomei said.

Like the other students receiving the recognition, success was the product of hard work for Peter Stidman, another scholar receiving the recognition. “I did a lot of ACT tutoring, and looked over practice guides,” he said. “Making sure to stay on top of this have really helped me develop a work ethic which allowed me to develop the skill necessary to perform on the PSAT.”

However, the significance of the award was deeper than simply doing well on a test for Stidman. “I think it’s really validating to get recognition for doing well on this test… Despite my appearance, I do have strong Latino heritage, with my father being Mexican, so I’m proud that I’m able to represent that, though I recognize that there are many others [Hispanic students] who deserve this recognition just as much as me. I think it made people a bit more aware of the fact that I do have that heritage in me and my family. It’s something that people now know,” Stidman finished, emphasizing the broader impact of the award.

Annie Snyder, the final scholar to receive the recognition, explained that she was well prepared for the PSAT. “I’ve always been good at standardized tests, and I always prioritize my classes.” Snyder believes that the award will allow her to become closer with her Hispanic background, and allow more people to know about her heritage. “People give me a lot of crap for not being Hispanic, but I am. [The award is] something I can point to… I’m really hoping to get involved more with Hispanic culture and multicultural environments in college, so I think [the award] will help out with that,” she explained.

Snyder explained that the award helps to provide more opportunities to an important cultural legacy. “My family has always been super close-knit, and I’ve always gotten a lot of support in my family, which I feel like is a big part of Hispanic culture. I think the award is important because there is obviously a huge socioeconomic gap between racial groups, so the award can be really helpful in closing that gap and getting people into college.”

Although the recognition is highly impressive academically for the students who achieved it, there is a much more significant meaning to the award as a whole. The five scholars all echoed the same idea, the idea that the existence of the program is itself significant because it helps to represent a minority group.

“I think it’s really important to have this award because, in some areas of the United States, there are significant education gaps, wherein some people are not able to get all the resources necessary, and often that is correlated with minority status,” explained Stidman.

Stidman feels that the award is an important aspect of helping to bridge this gap.“The fact that there is a national program to recognize people who may not have the resources to do as well as others, I think that’s a really important thing that should continue.”

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