SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Several members of South Plainfield High School’s Class of 2020 were recently recognized for their academic achievements and commitment to the community. 

On Sept. 17, seniors Liesl Co, Yug Modhera and, Fiza Rizvi were named ‘Commended Students’ in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program and were presented with a ‘Letter for Commendation’ from the school and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which runs the program. Additionally, on Sept. 25, Co and classmate Aleks Slicner were both named the Edison Rotary Club's  ‘High School Senior of the Month’.

The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) – which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.5 million entrants each year—and by meeting published program entry and participation requirements. 

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According to a press release issued by NMSC, about 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are currently being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Although Co, Modhera, and Rizvi will not continue in the 2020 competition for National Merit Scholarship awards, they placed among the top 50,000 out of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2020 competition by taking the 2018 PSAT/NMSQT.

Co said she was ‘pleasantly surprised’ to learn she’d been named a ‘Commended Student’ and that being honored for her scores on the test are a ‘nice benefit for all the studying.’ She hopes to attend an Ivy League school in Philadelphia or Boston next year to major in neuroscience and pursue a career in research. 

Rizvi also said she was ‘surprised’ to earn the recognition and that she ‘didn't go into the test with the goal of winning a scholarship.’ She hopes to attend either Stanford, the University of California at Berkley, Rutgers or Columbia next fall and wants to major in political science and minor in math before going on to law school. 

Modhera told TAPinto that being named a ‘Commended Student’ is ‘a great honor’ that he is ‘pretty excited about.’ He plans major in computer science or a similar STEM-related field and would like to attend either Carnegie Mellon, Northeastern, or Rutgers University. 

“It’s nice that these students were recognized for their academic accomplishments, especially in the area of testing,” said South Plainfield High School Principal Robert Diehl, adding, “With all the students across the country that took the tests to have three of our students score that high is something we are truly proud of.”

The Rotary High School 'Senior of the Month' is selected for their dedication and contribution to bettering the community in which they live. To be eligible, one must be nominated by a teacher and submit an essay on one of two topics related to their community service efforts. While academic information may be taken into consideration, community service is the primary deciding factor in awarding this honor. 

For his essay, Slicner wrote about how volunteering has impacted him and discussed how he is currently undergoing training to become a certified EMT and member of the South Plainfield Rescue Squad. In her essay, Co shared the work she did last summer as part of a Girl Scout project through which she built a reading corner and introduced a reading program for a school in St. Thomas that was devastated by a hurricane. 

"For years now, the Edison Rotary Club has been recognizing ‘outstanding students’ within the high school community. These students are recommended by teachers and staff based on overall performance in the building,” said Diehl. 

The Edison Rotary Club recognizes two students each month from South Plainfield, Edison, JP Stevens, and St. Joseph’s high schools and the Middlesex Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology. At the end of the school year, essay submissions are used to select one student from each of the five aforementioned schools as Rotary 'Student of the Year.'  

Additionally, at South Plainfield High School, the ‘Senior of the Month’ recognition also comes with the perk of a designated parking spot in the school student lot. Recipients have the privilege of parking there for a month, until the next ‘Student of the Month’ is selected.

“It is the best space anyone can get, closer to the building than any other student spot and lets everyone know they were selected as a ‘Student of the Month,’” said Diehl.

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