Two Paris High School seniors have been named semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship competition – Luke De la Garza and Preston Thompson.
Officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC®) announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. About 95 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and approximately half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.
Luke De la Garza and Preston Thompson both received this prestigious honor. Chris Vaughn, PHS Principal, presented both students with their certificate of recognition.
De la Garza, the son of Dr. David De la Garza and Jennifer De la Garza, is currently ranked first in the 2024 PHS graduating class and scored 225 on his qualifying test. He has received numerous awards in UIL, including placing 3rd in the UIL State 4A science team competition. He also advanced to Regionals this past year in UIL math, number sense, and calculator. For the past two years, he has been a drum major for the PHS Blue Blazes band. He holds the current school record for the 200 freestyle in swim. He placed 4th in the 200 freestyle and 6th in the 100 freestyle at the 4A State swim competition this past year. De la Garza is also a member of the Robotics team, Future Problem Solving, Student Council, Kiwanis Key Club, and National Honor Society.
Thompson, the son of Dr. Gregory Thompson and Tracy Thompson, is currently ranked second in the 2024 PHS graduating class and scored 221 on his qualifying test and received a perfect score on the ACT. He is a member of the science and mathematics UIL teams, where he placed 3rd in the UIL State 4A science team with De la Garza. He also competed at the state level as an individual in UIL computer science and science, earning a 4th place medal in science. He participates in Skills USA in Robotics and is a member of the VEX/VRC Robotics team that qualified for the world competitions this past year. He is a member of Future Problem Solving, where his team advanced at the international level the past three years, placing 10th this past year. For the past three years, he has made the All-Region band and Area band this past year. Thompson is also a member of the Student Council, National Honor Society, and Kiwanis Key Club, where he holds leadership roles.
Both De la Garza and Thompson are members of the Paris High School Blue Blazes Band and have attended the State competition the past three years, and both received national recognition as an AP Scholar and a National Rural and Small Town Award.
NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 320 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.