Out of 1.5 million applicants, two Lake Oswego graduates were selected for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship this year.
After an intense application process, Lucia Zhang and Praveer Sharan, 2022 Lake Oswego High School graduates, were given $2,500 each to use for their studies. The scholarship program is an academic competition that has recognized students since 1955. The semifinalists are picked based on high PSAT scores; they are then asked to go through an intense application process highlighting their credentials.
Both students were selected for their leadership, community service and dedication to science, according to an announcement from the scholarships office.
While at Lake Oswego High School, Zhang spent a lot of her time leading in and outside the classroom and helping out her community, which might have helped her obtain the prestigious scholarship.
Zhang participated in co-curricular activities like Model United Nations and Key Club, while outside of school she served as the director of operations for Bit by Bit Coding — a nonprofit that teaches coding to underprivileged youth.
Zhang also volunteered as part of the marketing team for Project Lotus, an organization that advocates on behalf of mental health awareness for Asian Americans.
She was recently awarded a national gold medal in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for an experimental memoir titled 'The Burned Book," which recounts some of her great grandfather's experience as part of the nationalist army during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
"After so much hard work and also a pretty chaotic college application process, having something that would be able to not only help my education, but also take a lot of the burden of paying for college, is definitely nice," Zhang said.
The incoming college freshman will head to the University of Southern California this fall to study quantitative biology, and might double major in English or Political Science.
"I think largely receiving (the scholarship) is more of a mental thing in that it's really validating and I have a bit more confidence in myself," she said. "It really let me know that, 'OK,what I've been doing is working and I can be successful and people see value in the work I put in.' So that gives me courage to keep going down the path."
Sharan will head off to Purdue University in Indiana. But this won't be his first time walking through a college campus.
During the pandemic, Sharan researched COVID-19 cough detection during an internship at Massachusetts Institute for Technology. He later presented his findings at a national conference in Los Angeles and embarked on another internship in 2021 to research vaccine vial defect detection.
"The aim of my internship was to write a literature review paper on the field of automated cough discrimination through the sound of a cough. I researched over 200 papers relating to the subject, and contacted different branches of MIT to ask for help in obtaining papers to finish my research," he said.
At Lake Oswego High School, Sharan spent much of his free time volunteering nationally. He served on the youth board for the International Child Art Foundation, volunteered with Bit by Bit Coding and taught chess to children during the World Children's Festival in 2021.
Sharan will study computer science at Purdue for his undergraduate degree before pursuing a graduate degree. He said the scholarship would help him obtain research projects and internships in the field of software engineering — which he believes will help him succeed in the industry.
"I was thrilled when I saw I won, I felt proud of myself. However, when I was awarded the scholarship during the award ceremonies in front of my entire class, I felt incredibly supported. I realized that my successes in high school were entirely because of my friends and family who pushed me to do more and supported me in whatever challenges I had," Sharan said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.