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Hunterdon students named National Merit Scholarship finalists

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Two Hunterdon County Vocational School District seniors, Prerna Shankar of Clinton, N.J., and Richard Li of Asbury, N.J., are finalists in the 67th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

To be selected as finalists, Shankar and Li are among the highest-scoring program entrants in New Jersey.

About half of the finalists will win one of the close to 7,500 National Merit Scholarships. The combined worth of the scholarships is more than $30 million. The winners will each earn the Merit Scholar title and be presented with a scholarship this spring.

Shankar attends HCVSD’s Biomedical Sciences Academy. She founded and is president of the Brain Bee Club and serves as a HOSA-Future Health Professionals officer. She also is a student member of the Biomedical Sciences Academy Advisory Committee.

After graduation, Shankar plans to travel with her family to the Rocky Mountains around Denver and take it easy before starting her first year of college.

“I want to enter a career in the medical field, more specifically as a physician specializing in some type of neuroscience,” she says. “I’ve always been drawn to the medical field, especially neuroscience, and through opportunities provided in the Biomedical Sciences Academy like the collegiate coursework, Anatomy & Physiology I and II, plus the opportunity to start the Brain Bee Club, I’ve been able to explore that realm of interest a lot throughout my years here.”

Dr. Donna Badgwell, an instructor in the Biomedical Sciences Academy, says Shankar is a natural born leader who helps other students in the Academy.

“I cannot imagine a more deserving student for this honor,” said Badgwell. “Prerna is a remarkable young woman and has earned this honor through hard work, compassion and determination. Prerna makes me proud every day just by being the kind of person she is. It has been a privilege to work with her over the last four years.”

Li, a student in HCVSD’s Computer Science and Applied Engineering Academy, is currently working on running 3D printers for students, maintaining and upgrading the printers and putting together a user manual to help others maintain the printers when he is gone.

After graduation, he plans on spending time at an internship and then attending a STEM-based college.

“I want to work in computer engineering with an emphasis on networks and data science,” says Li about his future. “The Computer Science and Applied Engineering Academy’s Cyber Security Unit really got me hooked on the idea of installing and managing networks.”

Justin Montgomery, instructor of the Computer Science and Applied Engineering Academy, said Li enjoys taking leadership roles and cares about the well-being of others. He invests much time and energy into giving back to the Academy.

“Richard is the consummate scholar,” Montgomery said. “Enthusiastic and respectful, he is always engaged in the learning of lessons, often asking questions and contributing during group discussions. His work is always completed on time and to the fullest extent. His sterling character is matched only by his incredible work ethic.”


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