Schools Briefs: National Merit, Kiwanis scholarship

Schools Briefs

National Merit program reveals semifinalists

The National Merit Scholarship Program last month released the names of the approximately 50 local semifinalists who earned top scores on their 2019 PSAT.

The list of semifinalists from area schools follows.

• Los Altos High School: Audrey X. Chang, Della R. Feldman-Peterson, Isabelle Z. Hong, Anthony S. Jin, Yorgos H. Kontoyiannis, Everett Q. Lee, Jocelyn M. Lee, Angelina C. Lue, Daniel Y. Ni, Henry Shi, Yelena Tao, Morgan S. Taylor-Cohen, Albert J. Yu and Selina Z. Zhang

• Mountain View High School: Indu Danturti, Akhand V. Dugar, Avi Gerber, Victoria Lam, Lance A. Mathias, Arjun P. Patrawala, Janya C. Sundar, Kai W. Tinkess, Audrey Y. Turcotte and Johan D. Vonk

• Pinewood School: Bela Pimpalkhare and Neilesh Rustagi

• St. Francis High School: Jordan M. Allard, Maya S. Chandra, Dylan M. Chen, Mia L. Cheng, Mila Z. Hong, Lulu Htutt, Hamza Y. Jamal, Dhruv D. Jatkar, Jenna L. Kalina, Anuja Katukam, Jessica M. Lin, Kelly T. Lu, Sadie G. Meyercord, Kanav Mittalo, Shervil Patel, Julian C. Ramprashad, Kaushik S. Tota, Darren Wang and Connie Xu

• Homestead High School (Los Altos residents): Isabelle R. Fejes, Rebecca Ma, Samrudh M. Shenoy and Erin L. Su

• German International School of Silicon Valley: Francis R. Beckert

• Waldorf School of the Peninsula: Melinda M. Yang

In all, 16,000 students in the U.S. were named semifinalists, and 90% of them are likely to qualify as finalists, according to program officials. Approximately 7,600 students will be eligible for a scholarship at the end of the competition.

For more information, visit

Kiwanis supports special-needs teacher

In a year of firsts, the Los Altos Kiwanis Club recently voted to offer a new scholarship directly to a special-education teacher in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District.

The $2,500 MVLA Staff Scholarship will support one teacher per year pursuing a teaching certification in serving special-needs students and critical learners.

This year’s recipient is Raylynn Virasak, who worked as an assistant instructor for many years before returning to school. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human development and completed a dual credential program and a master’s degree in special education in 2019.

“Our area is known for extraordinary students, some of whom I’ve worked with on robotics teams and STEM camps,” said Saroj Pathak, newly elected president of the Los Altos Kiwanis Club. “But what tends to get overlooked is the potential of students who face daily struggles and physical obstacles. It takes real heart to dedicate a teaching career to those students.”

While the Los Altos Kiwanis Club Foundation regularly offers grants to students and area nonprofits that apply through its grant process, this grant differs in that it is a gift from the Los Altos Kiwanis Club without an application, and is given to the school district rather than an individual student. It is intended to be renewed annually by vote of the Los Altos Kiwanis Board.

The Los Altos Kiwanis Club, established in 1947 as the first service club in Los Altos, has long focused on children with special needs. In 1979, it started the Kiwanis Special Games, a day of physical endeavor and accomplishment for 1,000 challenged children, held on the playing fields of West Valley College. The Special Games was canceled this year due to the pandemic.

For more information on the scholarship and the club, visit

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