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Soaring Eagles Receive National Recognition

Three of Leyden's elite students received the National Merit Commended Scholars Award- a feat only 3.3% of PSAT takers receive.

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Seniors Amal Sharaan, Jake Schwartz, and Gio Diomede received National Merit Commended Scholars recognition for the superb performance in last year’s PSAT.Every year, the top third of PSAT takers join an elite crew dubbed “National Merits.” And this award isn’t another humdrum sheet of paper. In fact, to say it’s rare is an understatement. According to Diomede, “only about 3.33% of test takers are given the award” and the rarity caused Schwartz to assume he’d “be lost among the 1.5 million or-so test takers.”

Leyden understands that those who are able to snatch this award are worthy of serious praise. Not only are the three of them posted in a display case by Entrance 4 holding their certificates, the principal, Mr. Jason Markey himself, delivered the news by hand, one by one. “Mr. Markey pulled me out of class to tell me the news,” Diomede recalled.

“The paper looked very official and he explained what it meant and how proud he was of us,” Schwartz added.

Although the award is nothing short of impressive, the only way to get it is to fall just short of the arbitrary cutoff to join the National Merit Semifinalists.For the two boys, the award meant two different things.

Diomede said he was “proud and excited to receive it. I didn’t even know it existed.”

As for Schwartz, it meant taking an L. “Damn, second place!” Schwartz jokes.

Positive Reactions to the award were not limited to students. Everyone from best friends, like Sharaan’s boyfriend, to teachers, Mr. Bryan Miller for Jake specifically, to parents were excited. “My mother has definitely been the most proud of this. Immediately after she found out about it, she began spreading it out all over social media and bragging to her friends about it,” Diomede said.

While it is not common for  Leyden Eagles to be a part of this club of “National Merits,” these three seemed to share a similar path to it: paying attention.

When asked what to recommend to the underclassmen who would love to be pulled out of class by Mr. Markey one day, Diomede and Sharaan said a huge key is to put the phones down, keep your eyes open, and pay attention in class.

“My advice would probably be to rely on the supports around you. No matter what you’re doing or where you’re heading, there will be times where you need someone to be there for you. Leyden has a lot of amazing people who will be- find them, and treasure them for the next few years,” Sharaan preaches. “Most of the topics you learn throughout your algebra and geometry courses make appearances on the PSAT, and all the reading you do in English and Social Studies classes helps to improve critical reading skills for the Reading & Writing section of the exam.”

Schwartz provided this larger scale future advice:. “ Regardless of what awaits you in your high school career, do your best to focus on yourself and don’t get caught up constantly comparing yourself to others. Among people reading this may be the next National Merit Commended Scholar, or even the next Semifinalist, and that’s fun to think about. But at the same time, with all the emphasis on test scores these days, don’t get too attached to certain standards. For all that these tests measure, there are things that can never be measured by any test: the impact that you have on your friends, teachers, and communities, as well as the contributions that you make to society every single day. No score can ever define or take those things away from you. So when the time comes and you get your test results back, regardless of what your results are, just remember that you are more than the sum total of all your test scores.”

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Keeping watch over student news at East Leyden High School
Soaring Eagles Receive National Recognition