Kirsten Kuper

Three Rio Rancho Public Schools high school students have reached a milestone in the National Merit Scholarship Program selection process: Rebecca Pelowitz and Rebecca Skousen of Rio Rancho High School, and Kristen Kuper of Cleveland High.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition with approximately 1.5 million high school students entering nationwide each year. The RRPS students have made it to the semifinals or finals; Pelowitz and Shousen got as far as the semifinals, while Kuper is a finalist.

Only 50,000 entrants with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores (calculated by doubling the sum of the reading, writing and language, and math test scores) qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

In September 2021, the high scorers were notified that they qualified as Commended Students or Semifinalists. All three of the RRPS students qualified as semifinalists.

In February, Skousen was selected as a finalist.

Winners of Merit Scholarship awards are chosen from the finalist group based on their abilities and accomplishments. A variety of information is available for NMSC to evaluate, including the finalists’ academic record and information about the school’s curriculum and grading system.

Approximately 7,500 winners will be notified by June that they have been selected to receive a Merit Scholarship. There are three types of Merit Scholarships: National Merit $2,500 scholarships, corporate-sponsored merit scholarships and college-sponsored merit scholarships.

Here’s a little background on the three RRPS students:

  • Skousen has a cumulative GPA of 4.31, is ranked fourth in her graduating class and is a member of National Honor Society. Her school activities include marching band, theatre and orchestra.

She is also involved in the community with musical theatre, church activities, piano and voice lessons, as well having achievement awards in the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest and being selected to perform at the Dancing Classrooms Convention.

She plans to go to Brigham Young University in the fall to study creative writing.

  • Kuper is a drum major with the award-winning Storm Regiment Marching Band and participates in wind symphony and jazz band. She is president and co-founder of the Cleveland Students for Life Club and manages the Google platforms for National Honor Society.

She is a piano teacher and volunteers at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, as well as Care Net Pregnancy Center of Rio Rancho. In addition to being a National Merit semifinalist, her honors include being an all-state musician and receiving the Texas Tech University James Sowell Engineering Scholarship, as well as the Presidential Merit Scholarship.

Kuper plans to attend Texas Tech in the fall to study chemical engineering and be a member of Goin’ Band from Raiderland Marching Band.

  • Pelowitz has a cumulative GPA of 4.16, is ranked No. 10 in her graduating class and is a National Honor Society member. She is involved with many school activities, such as marching band and Dungeons and Dragon Club.

She also has an internship with the RRPS Information Technology Department. She participates in LBYX Foreign Exchange Program, youth group and choir at All Saints Lutheran Church, and is a co-founder and co-leader of GSA.

She plans to attend New Mexico State University in the fall to study biochemistry.