Belen senior is a finalist for National Merit Scholar

........................................................................................................................................................................................

One Belen High School valedictorian has been named a finalist in the running to be a National Merit Scholar.

Senior Andres Alvino Salas is competing against 15,000 other finalists from around the country for 8,300 national merit scholarships. The National Merit Scholar Corporation will announce the winners beginning in April.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Andres Alvino Salas, one of Belen High School’s nine valedictorians, is a finalist be a National Merit Scholar and receive the corporation’s scholarship. The winners will be announced beginning in April.

BHS Principal Christopher Hotchkiss said Salas was one of the few in the state to be chosen as a finalist.

“Andres is one of the top 15,000 students in the nation at his age,” Hotchkiss told the Board of Education at their March 12 meeting. “It is a very big honor.”

Salas received a standing ovation from audience members at the meeting and congratulations from board members.

The Bernardo resident underwent a series of tasks to become a finalist.

To qualify, participants must receive above a certain score in either the preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test and meet program entrance requirements, according to NMSC’s website.

The participant’s Score Report Plus, illustrating the student’s Selection Index score combining critical reading, mathematics and writing skills scores, is sent to NMSC to determine which high scorers will be recognized.

From there, NMSC identifies semifinalists, who are sent scholarship applications. Students who achieve semifinalist status, as well as meet other academic standards, move onto the finalist round to compete for scholarships.

Last year, one BHS student, William Hutchison, achieved semifinalist status, Hotchkiss said.

Salas credits his accomplishment to a number of things, including his father and mother, Andrew and Martha, “who are really smart,” he said.

His father, who was appointed last year as adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard, received semifinalist status in the competition.

“I’m honored, but more weirded out. I’m like, ‘What did I do different?’ Because it’s not like I studied all crazily or anything,” Salas said. “I definitely point this up to my dad, because he’s really blessed me with his brain powers.”

Taking MAPS testing as a freshman and sophomore gave him tips in choosing the correct answers on tests, such as selecting the best answer by process of elimination.

Math teacher Matt Williams not only pushed him the hardest in his Algebra II and math history courses, but opened the doorway for Salas to fall in love with math and physics.

“I really have a passion for understanding that … Math is just beautiful,” he said.

His goal is to become a professor in math and physics and practice as a Christian pastor, like his role model John Lennox. Lennox is a British mathematics professor at the University of Oxford and pastoral advisor at Green Templeton College in Oxford, according to his website.

Along with being the student body president, Salas has been involved in choir, tennis, National Honor Society and even started his own club, the Religious Club, at the beginning of the school year. Salas, who gave his life to Christ in July, wants to help others develop a strong relationship with Christ.

“It helped me be a better person and develop as an individual,” he said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.