Good Life

Head of the class | Area students recognized as National Merit Scholars

Enrique del Castillo
Enrique del Castillo

About 1.5 million students enter the National Merit Scholarship competition annually when they take the PSAT/NMSQT during their junior year in high school.

The top-scoring students in each state are then chosen to be among the 16,000 semifinalists, and about 15,000 meet the requirements to become finalists. Of those students, about 8,000 seniors are offered Merit Scholarships.

The following local students are finalists, commended students, recognized Hispanic Scholars and Merit Scholarship winners. Congratulations to them all.


The following students are winners of the $2,500 2015 National Merit Scholarship, which is underwritten by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Noah Beattie-Moss

State College Area High School

Parents: Melissa Beattie-Moss and Anne Beattie-Moss, both of State College

Activities: Noah has studied violin since age 4 and is currently concertmaster of the State High orchestra and associate concertmaster of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Orchestra. He has performed in chamber ensembles and pit orchestras and was recognized by the YoungArts Foundation for music composition. He also enjoys studying Latin and being a member of State High’s quiz bowl team.

Future plans: He plans to pursue his interests in the humanities and sciences at Princeton University.

Jacob Van Hook

State College Area High School

Parents: Stephen and Jennifer Van Hook, of Ferguson Township

Activities: Jacob is the captain of the State High Science Bowl team and the president of the State High math club. He was a semifinalist for the biology, chemistry, and physics Olympiads and four-time qualifier for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination. He works in an entomology lab at Penn State and volunteers his time for his church and is active in the FISH youth group.

Future plans: He plans to study mathematics in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.


The following students are 2015 National Merit Scholarship finalists.

Miranda Chen

State College Area High School

Parents: Gong Chen and Jie Xu, of Ferguson Township

Activities: Miranda is the principle second violin player in the Central Pennsylvania Youth Orchestra and a senior member in the Concordia Singers of the Nittany Valley children’s choir. She also volunteers at Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Future plans: Miranda plans to study the life sciences at Penn State and go on to medical school after her undergraduate studies.

Elias Jaenicke

State College Area High School

Parents: Edward and Alison Jaenicke, of State College

Activities: is the captain of the National Ocean Science Bowl team. He also participates in Math Club, Science Bowl, Chamber Orchestra and intramural basketball.

Future plans: Elias is planning to major in physics in Gemstone Honors Program at the University of Maryland.

Katherine G. Lee

State College Area High School

Parents: Michael and Susan Lee, of State College

Activities: Katherine is vice president of the speech and debate team at State High and has been active in fundraising for and competing with the team. For her graduation project, she introduced a pilot speech and debate program at Park Forest Middle School. She volunteers as a counselor at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center’s summer programs to teach children about nature.

Future plans: She intends to pursue her interests in neuroscience at Penn State.

Maria McQuaide

Penns Valley Area High School

Parents: Vicky and Jim McQuaide, of Centre Hall

Activities: Maria is the captain of the Penns Valley 2015 small school state champion academic decathlon team and is the current state record holder. She has been a member of the Spanish Club, Volleyball team, and the National Honor Society, manages for the Track team and has volunteered at the Centre Hall Library. Her hobbies include playing guitar, reading, drawing/painting, and building model airplanes and rockets.

Future plans: She plans to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering at Penn State.

Michael G. Rury

State College Area High School

Parents: Charles Rury and Sarah Assmann, of State College

Activities: Michael is an AP Scholar with distinction, a board member of Kiva Club and a co-founder of Acclivity, State High’s literary magazine. He has also worked with the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State developing questions for an international panel discussing the ethical implications surrounding GMOs.

Future plans: He will attend Williams College, possibly studying economics or finance, and playing on the men’s soccer team.

George A. Saleeby

State College Area High School

Parents: Lina Eid and Hussam Saleeby, of State College

Activities: He played lacrosse for State High for four years and participated in the Future Business Leaders of America.

Future plans: He plans to attend the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.

Andrew Shu

State College Area High School

Parents: Yi and Jun Shu, of Ferguson Township

Activities: Andrew has loved sharing stories with the elderly at Elmcroft Nursing Home for the past four years. Their acceptance and encouragement has meant the world to him. He also served as vice president of the State High Kiva Club, where he worked hand in hand with truly caring and engaged students to raise and loan money to those in need in developing nations.

Future plans: He planning to study mathematics and Chinese at the United States Naval Academy.

Rosalie Sowers

State College Area High School

Parents: Maggie Peacock and Todd Sowers, of State College

Activities: Rosalie is a pianist and a member of State High’s volleyball team. She studies plant chemistry at a Penn State entomology lab and volunteers for a local pet shelter.

Future plans: She plans to major in biology in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State as a Braddock Scholar.

Kevin Xu

State College Area High School

Parents: Douglas Xu and Amy Gai, of State College

Activities: Kevin has served as editor-in-chief for the Lions’ Digest at State High. He played defensive specialist for the State High volleyball team, worked as treasurer for the student government, participated in Science Olympiad and Science Bowl and volunteered at Mount Nittany Medical Center. In his free time, he enjoys reading novels.

Future plans: Kevin plans to attend Vanderbilt University to pursue his interests in economics.

National Hispanic Recognition Program Recipients

The following students scored in the top 2.5 percent among Hispanic and Latino students who took the PSAT/NMSQT in Centre County.

Lina Duiker

State College Area High School

Parents: Sjoerd and Mary Duiker, of State College

Activities: Lina is vice president of the Key Club. She participated as witness and attorney in mock trial, and played Rapunzel in “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, a Very Hairy Fairy Tale.”

Future plans: She plans to major in philosophy and communications at Penn State.

Enrique M. del Castillo

State College Area High School

Parents: Enrique del Castillo and Monica Septien, of Ferguson Township

Activities: Enrique enjoys soccer, tennis, classical guitar and chess. He is a National AP Scholar and a Pennsylvania Outstanding High School Writers finalist. He has also attended the prestigious MOSTEC program at MIT, where he was honored as the top student in his aerospace engineering area of specialization.

Future plans: Enrique plans to study applied mathematics and geology (and hopefully play soccer) at Princeton University.


The following students are commended by the 2015 National Merit Program.

From Bellefonte Area High School: Matthew E. Dabiero and Josiah D. Stickles

From State College Area High School: Raina M. Arnett, Isabel M. Burgos, Rebecca E. Cobes, Enrique M. Del Castillo, Matthew F. Driban, Lear Du, Lina R. Duiker, Brandon J. Fedeli, Hannah L. Feldstein, Carter F. Hardy, Jacob J. Keller, Andy Y. Luo, Julia C. Ma, Cassandra Maranas, Steven B. McAninch, Renee D. Olivett, Eric A. Pauley, Ian C. Pierce, Elizabeth A. Reigel, Charles Simpson-Hall, Olivia L. Stahl, Kaitlyn M. Warner, Samuel J. Wherley, Eleanor L. Wing, Huaiyu Yang, Frances A. Youmans