Three PfISD students named National Merit Finalists

March 7, 2017 

Andrea Orji Elizabeth Ross Madison McVan  (Editor's note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Madison McVan was inadvertently omitted from the initial National Merit Finalists announcement. Below is the updated edition.)
Three Pflugerville ISD high school students have been named National Merit Finalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Andrea Orji of Pflugerville High School and Madison McVan and Elizabeth Ross of Hendrickson High School are among the select group of students named Merit Finalists.

“It was a huge moment,” Ross said, recalling the day her mother screamed and rushed into her room to tell her she had been named a Merit Finalist. “It took a few moments to process it. It opens up so many avenues for school placement and scholarships.”

Approximately 1.6 million high school juniors annually take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, according to NMSC. The following fall, students across the nation are named either Commended Scholars or National Merit Semifinalists, with Semifinalists continuing in the competition.

Approximately 15,000 students are named Merit Finalists each year.

The field of Finalists is later whittled down to include only Merit Scholars, who receive college scholarships that may pay for up to four years of higher education.

Orji is a percussionist in the Pflugerville High School band, and is also involved in National Honor Society, student council and Science Olympiad. She previously played basketball and volleyball for PHS.

Her parents have always stressed the importance of academics to her and her three older siblings, each of whom is attending college.

“We all have this expectation for ourselves to do the best we can,” Orji said. “We know we have to try harder.”

She plans on studying biomechanical or chemical engineering in college and is currently awaiting her college acceptance letters.
McVan graduated a year early and is currently attending the University of Missouri. Contacted by phone, McVan said she thought her Finalist application essay was only partially submitted at the deadline, due to connectivity issues in an airport.

“I didn’t believe I got it, so I was really surprised when I found out,” McVan said. “I knew it would be a financial help for me.”

She was involved in band, National Honor Society and journalism while attending Hendrickson. She is currently majoring in journalism and Latin American studies.
Ross plays French horn and is Hendrickson band council president. She’s also been involved in National Honor Society, Science Olympiad and track.

As a younger student, she largely relied on her smarts before a sixth-grade teacher rejected one of her projects, asking her to try harder.

“That was the first time anybody had told me, ‘This isn’t good enough. This isn’t what you can do. Try again,’” Ross said. “Since then, I’ve tried to commit myself to do the best, not just to be better than other people, but to be better than myself.”

She hopes to study architecture in college and is considering attending California Polytechnic State University or the University of Oklahoma.
Each student attended Pflugerville ISD schools when they were younger. Orji attended Timmerman Elementary and Pflugerville Middle School. McVan attended Murchison and Rowe Lane elementary schools as well as Kelly Lane Middle School.
Ross is a former student of Delco Primary, Dessau Elementary and Dessau Middle schools.