CHS has 3 named National Merit semifinalists

Carson High School seniors Jora and Mori Kurland.

Carson High School seniors Jora and Mori Kurland.

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Three Carson City School District seniors have been named semifinalists in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program.

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. in September announced the names of more than 16,000 semifinalists in the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. High school seniors have a chance to continue for 7,140 scholarships estimated at $28 million in the spring, and about 95 of the semifinalists are expected to achieve finalist standing, of which half win a National Merit scholarship and the Merit Scholar title.

More than 1.3 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program having taken the 2022 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test screens initial entrants, and the pool of semifinalists, of which there are less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors across the nation, represents the top scoring students. Finalists are selected by providing a detailed scholarship application showing their academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, employment and honors received.

Mori and Jora Kurland

In the Carson City School District, twin brother and sister Mori and Jora Kurland said it was unexpected to be notified that they were National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Mori said they plan to continue their education at the University of Tulsa in fall 2024 and have full-ride scholarships to the institution, a private research university.

“It was a lot of effort, it was a lot of hard days and hard homework evenings, but I had a lot of support in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” Mori said of his class time in Carson High.

Mori said his goal was to become a chemical engineer but said his full scholarship to Tulsa covers a program in Spanish. His mother, who is Puerto Rican, is fluent in the language, and he picked up an interest in becoming bilingual.

“I’ve always listened to her speaking fluently,” he said. “Our country and our world are increasingly globalized. It’s nice to communicate with so many places. My Spanish teacher (from Carson High) was another inspiration.”

He credited Spanish teacher Natividad ArriazaDePhillips for making his language acquisition skills easier.

Mori also participated in Carson High’s drama club during his sophomore year and participated in Shakespeare in the Park and the production “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He also helped as a library volunteer.

Mori said he and Jora would have been “fools” to turn down full-ride scholarships to an institution like the University of Tulsa.

“I just have to recognize the effort that I put in and add to everybody, it was no cake walk but it proves if you have goals, to achieve those goals you just have to work hard,” he said.

Jora said she would have liked to have majored in microbiology but Tulsa, as a smaller school, does not offer such an academic program, so she’s considering majoring in biology or chemistry instead.

“I want to say 90% of their prospective medical students get into medical,” she said.

She enjoyed studying under Carson High’s language arts teacher Rebecca Rodina for English honors II and exploring more grammar than book analysis, as well as math teacher Sasha Sonderby for algebra honors II. She praised her teachers for the personal attention they provided students.

“Mrs. Sonderby made me feel like I mattered to her, but she also wasn’t a pushover when we wanted to get away with things, and in that way, she was helping to prepare (students) for the future,” Jora said.

Jora said being a National Merit semifinalist allowed her to see the possibilities of college and for the level of rigor it would take to get into medical school and for the Medical College Admission Test for acceptance.

“I think being a National Merit scholar helps me believe in myself a little more,” she said.

Carson High School senior Dylan Olson. 

Dylan Olson

Senior Dylan Olson took the PSAT twice at the behest of one of his teachers and said he was glad he did, saying he studied more for the SAT and ACT and wrote an essay. Since a condition for the competition is to earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm a student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test, Olson said he believed “more practice is always better.”

“(The essay) was about a challenge I’ve overcome, so I wrote about diabetes,” he said, which he was diagnosed with when he was 4 and a half years old. “I’m kind of glad it was early in my life.”

Olson, who is part of Carson High’s Type 1 diabetes club started last year by student Leah Card, has helped make bracelets with his peers to donate to Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center, and he described his own personal experiences of his condition in his essay.

Olson, who plans to attend college at Brigham Young University, will serve a two-year mission after graduating and then go to university. He hopes to major in chemistry or biology but wants to use what he learns for a potential career in science or lab work.

“I worked at my dad’s dental office every Friday the first six months of this year, and it was alright,” he said, smiling. “It was better pay than the other job I had, but I didn’t love working the whole day standing, and also the pressure of, ‘This is someone’s teeth.’ So maybe an easier job of not so much working with people. I want to do chemistry or engineering. Just science.”


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