ECISD students earn National Merit Hispanic Scholar honors

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Four Ector County Independent School District high school seniors have been selected as National Merit Hispanic Scholars.

They include David Hinojos from Odessa High School and Kristin Morton, Reana Lopez and Jacob Menhaca from Permian High School.

Approximately 1.6 million high school students enter the competition by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). Students take the PSAT during their junior year of high school and are recognized in their senior year, information from the district said.

Of the approximately 250,000 Hispanic/Latino high school juniors who take the PSAT only about 5,000 — the top 2 percent — are honored as National Hispanic Scholars.

All four have taken dual credit, Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate courses.

Hinojos, 17, plans to attend Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering.

He said he was surprised about receiving the National Merit recognition.

“I feel like it was an honor. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it or not,” Hinojos said.

Hinojos is captain of the varsity swim team, OHS band, a member of the National Honor Society, Amnesty USA. In band, he is a percussionist with an emphasis on the keyboard instruments.

He also participates in the Odessa Aquatic Center where he has worked as a life guard.

Math and physics are his favorite subjects. He said he always had an interest in how things were made.

“So when I heard mechanical engineering is where you can design and where you can innovate, I felt like that was where I wanted to be,” Hinojos said.

“… They have created everything from the design of a simple potato chip (to) robotics technology. Everyone needs a mechanical engineer,” he added.

Hinojos added that he chose Texas A&M because it is one of the best schools for engineering in Texas and one of the top ranked in the nation. “I felt like it was a fitting choice,” Hinojos said.

He said his parents are proud of him and have always supported him. Hinojos said he also wants to set a good example for his younger brothers and sisters.

His parents, he said, have always encouraged him to broaden his horizons.

Hinojos said he took International Baccalaureate courses until the end of his junior year and then he took all Advanced Placement courses. If you score high enough on an AP test, you can earn college credit.

“I can tell you it’s a great accomplishment for the young man. We’re very proud of his efforts and being able to get to that level. We’re very fortunate on our campus to have a student that has excelled at that level. And just to be part of that process he obviously has some goals and aspirations that are pretty lofty that I think he will definitely accomplish because it’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to accomplish so far. We’re certainly supporting him in his efforts to get to that level and couldn’t be any prouder of what he’s been able to accomplish so far,” Principal Mauricio Marquez said.

Lopez, 18, got into University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas of the Permian Basin, but said she will probably go to UTPB because she got a free ride. She plans to major in biology and ultimately go to medical school to become an obstetrician-gynecologist or an ear, nose and throat doctor.

Lopez earned the distinction of AP Scholar for scoring a 3 on the AP World History exam and a 4 on the AP US History and AP English Language exam. She will be inducted into the Permian Academic Hall of Fame for her outstanding score on the SAT of 1280 and ACT score of 30. She is currently ranked No. 13 in her senior class of 789.

She is a member of the National Honor Society, Texas Scholars and Students in Philanthropy.

Attending Permian has been an educational experience, Lopez said, but she notes that Permian is well known all over for “Mojo” and “Friday Night Lights.”

“I’m glad to be a part of that showing the school is more like a regular high school,” Lopez said.

Morton plans to attend Texas A&M and study international studies. She said she thinks she wants to go into politics.

She will be inducted into the Permian Academic Hall of Fame for her outstanding score on the SAT of 1390 and ACT of 32. She is currently ranked No. 1 in her senior class of 789.

Morton is a member of the National Honor Society (President), Students in Philanthropy, Texas Scholars, Business Professionals of America, Student Senate, Odessa Symphony Guild, Senior Board, Congressional Youth Advisory and Council for the 11th District of Texas.

She is a member of Crossroads Fellowship Worship Team, Crystal Ball Foundation and has 13 years of classical piano training.

Morton said it was always a goal of hers to become a National Merit scholar.

“So I’m pretty happy that I did. I took SAT prep a year early to get prepared for it. It was a class here, but … I think I was a sophomore it was all juniors and seniors and I was the youngest one, so I kind of felt weird because I didn’t know anybody in there,” Morton said.

She added that she has had “really great teachers” at Permian and has been fortunate to become involved in a lot of things so she didn’t become just a number.

Lopez advised younger students talk to their counselors and start keeping track of their GPA early. “Certain classes you have to take pass fail,” she said. “Make sure you know which ones are weighted and which ones aren’t.”

She added that students should volunteer.

“I did 50-something hours at ORMC (Odessa Regional Medical Center) and I wouldn’t be able to add up how much I did at Odessa Animal Control,” Lopez said.

Morton said students should learn what tests and applications can yield scholarship money and prepare for those things.

“Start early. Don’t wait until the second semester of your senior year,” she said.

Karen Hart, who teaches anatomy and physiology and is the National Honor Society sponsor and AP coordinator, has Morton and Lopez in class.

“They’re both real good students. Kristin is No. 1 in her class. Reana is 13, so both of them are good students and hard workers. But it’s not just the academic sides that they work on. They’re also well known in their class and have good personalities,” Hart said.

She said she doesn’t have Menchaca in her class, but knows he is a bright young man with a love of music.

Menchaca plans to go to Texas A&M and study biomedical sciences to become a veterinarian.

He has earned the distinction of AP Scholar with Honor by scoring a 3 on the AP English Language exam and the AP World History exam and a 4 on the AP U.S. History exam and the AP Biology exam.

He will be inducted into the Permian Academic Hall of Fame for his outstanding score on the SAT of 1330. He is currently ranked No. 7 in his senior class of 789. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Texas Scholars, Black Cat Jazz Band, Decathlon (Team Captain) and the Mighty MOJO Marching Band (Officer).

He said he’s wanted to be a veterinarian since he was in elementary school.

“I’ve always liked animals, so that’s really led me to what I want to do,” Menchaca said.

At home, he has three dogs and three cats and his family has a ranch in Menard where they have horses, cows and sheep.

On getting the National Merit Hispanic Scholar recognition, Menchaca said he was proud of himself and his family was, too.

“It’s really going to help me with college because of the scholarship I get from it,” he said.

Like his peers, Menchaca said he has enjoyed attending PHS.

“It’s probably been the best three years of life so far. I’ve met lots of new friends. Band has really made my three years here memorable,” Menchaca said.

He is in National Honor Society, Academic Decathlon and plays trombone in band and symphony and is in the jazz band.

Taking AP biology with former Permian teacher Mike Cashin last year got him more interested in science.

“I feel like he made the class fun,” Menchaca said. “He made me want to take more science classes. To be a veterinarian, you need to take a lot of science classes. Being able to enjoy science is kind of necessary to be a veterinarian.”

He would tell younger students to dream big and chase those dreams. Menchaca said his band director, Jeff Whitaker, told him that and it made him want to dream big and chase those dreams himself.

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