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La Serna High School

Whittier Union Seniors Recognized as National Merit Scholarship Commended Students

Four Whittier Union seniors have received Letters of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program in recognition of their outstanding academic promise.
La Serna High School seniors Haebin Han, Kaylie Ching and Damian De La Loza, as well as California High School senior Isabel Garcia, are among 34,000 recipients receiving Commended status in 2020, placing them in the top 3 percent of the 1.5 million entrants across the country who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
“The National Merit Scholarship commendations recognize the brilliant work being done by these outstanding Whittier Union students, as they look toward a postsecondary future filled with promise and potential,” Superintendent Martin J. Plourde said. “Congratulations to our scholars and campus leaders, and thank you to our amazing teachers and counselors for their diligence and support.”
Ching has completed 12 Advanced Placement (AP) and 7 Honors classes at La Serna and is an active member in several campus clubs, including the Speech & Debate Team, and has earned numerous oratorical awards. Ching has spent many hours volunteering at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital and the Whittier Library. In summer 2019, Ching studied abroad in Berlin, Germany.
“I truly believe that the encouraging environment at La Serna enabled me to explore my various interests and realize my unique aspirations to study history on a pre-medicine track,” Ching said. “The letter of commendation from National Merit is an honor that inspires me to work harder toward my goals.”
Han’s main academic interests are computers and technology. She has applied to Drexel and Northwestern universities, where she would like to major in cybersecurity and pursue a career as an ethical hacker. Han plays violin, loves to dance and has devoted many hours as a volunteer for her church, performing community projects.
“Academic life at La Serna High is interesting. La Serna has many options for AP and advance classes, and I enjoy taking them,” Han said. “Most of my classes this year are AP and they challenge me to stretch my brain. Receiving a commendation from National Merit is quite an honor.”
De La Loza has worked as a biomedical research intern for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and is captain of the La Serna varsity tennis team.
“The National Merit scholarship is an honor to receive,” De La Loza said. “It’s great to feel the support and pride of my friends and family.”
“We are proud of our National Merit commended scholars, who are not just excellent students but also campus leaders,” La Serna High Principal Griselda Castro said. “Haebin, Kaylie and Damian set the bar of high expectations for all La Serna students to aspire to and achieve.”
A 10-year member of the Girl Scouts, Garcia has spent four years in the Cal High Scholars Program, completing over 50 hours of community service per year. Garcia has also served as an academic mentor. Passionate about the natural sciences, Garcia would like to major in soil science while specializing in mycology, the study of fungi. She has applied to Cal Poly SLO, Oregon State and Washington State.
“I am so happy to be recognized as a National Merit commended student,” Garcia said. “Figure out what you want to do, figure out how to do it and don’t let anything stop you.”
Although the students do not qualify as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, they may become candidates for Special Scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses.
“Over four years at Cal High, Isabel Garcia has grown by leaps and bounds, displaying leadership qualities and a dedication to her studies,” Cal High Principal Bill Schloss said. “Isabel has a very promising future and we can’t wait to see what her next chapter brings.”

111320_WUHSD_Scholars: La Serna High School seniors Haebin Han, Kaylie Ching and Damian De La Loza, as well as California High School senior Isabel Garcia have received Letters of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program.