NEWPORT — Alia Gonzalez, a 16-year-old Newport High School senior, knows the value of heading into graduation June 5th with a 4.0 grade point average and a good score on the Preliminary PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.
Alia recently received notification that she is now a finalist, advancing from the semi-final level. In early June Alia will learn if she made it to the final step, which carries a $7,000 scholarship.
She is also one of three Valedictorians in the Class of 2019.
The numbers to get to the Merit Scholarship finalist level are staggering.
In October of 2017, during her junior year at NHS, Alia was one of more than 1.6 million students in approximately 22,000 high schools across the United States who took the PSAT.
Last fall, 16,000 of the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named semi-finalists. From this group, 15,000 students met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition.
Students advance to finalist standing by submitting SAT scores that confirm their earlier PSAT performance, having an outstanding academic record and being endorsed and recommended by a high school official.
They must also submit an application that includes high school courses and grades, extracurricular and volunteer activities, and a self-descriptive essay
Of the 15,000 finalists, about 8,000 receive Merit Scholarship awards. All finalists are considered for one of the 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships. Scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies.
By the conclusion of the 2019 program, about 7,600 finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a total of more than $31 million in college scholarships.
Only seven New Hampshire students made it to the semifinal plateau and of that number, three, including Alia, were named finalists.
In August, Alia will be heading to Long Island University—Post, where she will major in musical theater.
At LIU, Alia said the annual cost is $58,800. The college has already informed her she will be receiving a full tuition scholarship valued at $36,500. She has also applied for local scholarships that will be announced during the graduation season.
The granddaughter of Eileen and John Barton, Alia’s school career started at Newport Montessori School before moving over to Richards Elementary School in Grade 3.
She skipped Grade 8 after taking Algebra in Grade 7. With no additional math course then available in Grade 8, Alia said she had a choice to go to Sunapee Middle High School or move on to Grade 9 in Newport. When that change was made, she had to complete two English projects in one week during the summer, which she accomplished and it was on to Grade 9.
English is her favorite course. Outside of the classroom Alia is vice president of the National Honor Society, president of the high school chorus and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook.
Alia said she has a passion for learning and has been involved in dance for 10 years at Stardancer Studio. In the classroom she has been on the honor roll every quarter since Grade 3.
Alia doesn’t miss many days of school either. On a “senior skip day” she went to school as usual. She doesn’t watch much television but when she does “Futurama” is her favorite show.
She also did not hesitate to offer her opinion when asked how things were going at Newport High School.
“I don’t like how we focus on athletic and less achieving kids,” she responded. “Newport doesn’t offer enough challenging courses for kids who want to be here and learn because of lack of funding.”