Five UCS students among top 1% of high school seniors

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published October 9, 2023

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP/UTICA/STERLING HEIGHTS — Five Utica Community Schools students are among the 16,000 U.S. high school seniors to be named 2024 National Merit semifinalists.

Katrina Ishioka, Amrita Nayak and Branden Pawlicki, of the Gene L. Klida Utica Academy for International Studies; Harjot Singh, of Utica High School; and Katie Van De Winkle, of Eisenhower High School are the district’s semifinalists

UCS Superintendent Robert Monroe said that, through hard work and dedication to excellence, these UCS seniors have continued the district’s tradition of students earning honors through the National Merit Scholarship program.

Singh and Van De Winkle are also part of the Utica Center for Science and Industry, which is a half-day specialty program that the district offers.

National Merit semifinalists are among the top 1% of the nation’s high school seniors, according to a press release from Utica Community Schools.

Singh said in an email interview that he will be applying to Ivy League schools and the University of Michigan, and he plans pursue a career in medicine.

“I think it will really help me stand out, especially when you consider the amount of applications they receive,” he said of being a National Merit semifinalist.

He is an SAT tutor and tutored 1,000 students this summer.

“Our school does a lot better job than most schools in terms of preparing them for the SAT. I always try to be the best person I can and I don’t really seek out the attention, but it has been awesome to have the external recognition. My principal called me down to congratulate me, my counselor mentioned it to me and I’ve had others in the school say something, and I really appreciate that,” Singh said.

“Our entire community is proud of the accomplishment of our National Merit semifinalists,” Superintendent Robert Monroe said in the press release. “Through hard work and the support of their UCS teachers, they represent our high expectations and how this district continues to open doors for our students to a successful future.”

Semifinalists next submit a scholarship application. The program will look at the students’ academic record, after-school activities, leadership, essays, and recommendations from officials at their high schools and SAT scores that confirm their PSAT/NMSQT scores.

In the spring, finalists will compete for 7,140 National Merit Scholarships totaling $28 million, according to the press release.