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Two Paris High School Seniors Named Semifinalist

(L) Luke De la Garza (R) Preston Thompson Photo Credit: PHS Photography Student Lindsey Holleman

Two Paris High School seniors have been named semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship competition – Luke De la Garza and Preston Thompson.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC®) officials announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented high school seniors can continue in the competition for some 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million. They will offer the money next spring. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. They expect about 95 percent of the Semifinalists to attain Finalist standing, and approximately half will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

Luke De la Garza and Preston Thompson both received this prestigious honor. Chris Vaughn, PHS Principal, presented both students with their certificate of recognition.

De la Garza, the son of Dr. David De la Garza and Jennifer De la Garza, is currently ranked first in the 2024 PHS graduating class and scored 225 on his qualifying test. He has received numerous awards in UIL, including placing 3rd in the UIL State 4A science team competition. DelaGarza also advanced to Regionals this past year in UIL math, number sense, and calculator. He has been a drum major for the PHS Blue Blazes band for the past two years. He holds the current school record for the 200 freestyle in swim. This past year, he placed 4th in the 200 freestyle and 6th in the 100 freestyle at the 4A State swim competition. De la Garza is also a Robotics team member, Future Problem Solving, Student Council, Kiwanis Key Club, and National Honor Society.

Thompson, the son of Dr. Gregory Thompson and Tracy Thompson, is currently ranked second in the 2024 PHS graduating class and scored 221 on his qualifying test and received a perfect score on the ACT. He is a member of the science and mathematics UIL teams, where he placed 3rd in the UIL State 4A science team with De la Garza. Thompson also competed at the state level as an individual in UIL computer science and science, earning a 4th place medal in science. He participates in Skills USA in Robotics and is a VEX/VRC Robotics team member who qualified for the world competitions this past year. Thompson is a member of Future Problem Solving, where his team advanced at the international level the past three years, placing 10th this past year. For the past three years, he has made the All-Region and Area bands this past year.

Thompson is also a member of the Student Council, National Honor Society, and Kiwanis Key Club, where he holds leadership roles.
De la Garza and Thompson are the Paris High School Blue Blazes Band members and have attended the State competition for the past three years. Both received national recognition as an AP Scholar and a National Rural and Small Town Award.

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. NMSC underwrites scholarships with its funds and by approximately 320 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.