National Merit Scholars

MNPS Graduates Win National Merit Scholarship
Posted on 06/14/2021
Parwan Machingal
Parwan Machingal loved learning about geography at an early age, and soon he realized he simply loved learning.

“I first saw U.S. and world maps in kindergarten,” said Parwan, who graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School last month. “That was what first sparked my interest in intellectual endeavors.”

Parwan and Leo Chang, a graduate of Hume-Fogg Magnet High School, recently won the prestigious National Merit Scholarship, which honors academically talented young people. Parwan and Leo are among just 2,500 National Merit Scholars chosen from a field of 16,000 finalists – an elite group itself, drawn from 1.5 million students at 21,000 high schools who took the PSAT as juniors in 2019.

Leo said his four years at Hume-Fogg were important to his development and his preparation for college at Northwestern University, which he’ll attend this fall.

“I learned to have a good work ethic and to collaborate heavily with my peers, which I expect will be foundational post-high school,” said Leo, who also attended MNPS’s Granbery Elementary and Meigs Academic Magnet Middle School. “Rather than hold a one-dimensional vision about life, I have learned to think critically about decision-making and to appreciate good literature, among other things.”

Leo loves to play chess. He taught the game to his younger brothers, who are now 14 and 9, when he was in middle school, and he volunteers regularly at the Nashville Chess Center. He wrote about those experiences in his application essay for the National Merit Scholarship.

Leo, who also was heavily involved in Quiz Bowl and the Junior Classical League, thanked his Latin teacher and Quiz Bowl coach at Hume-Fogg, Tim Russell, “for being a great mentor and friend.”

Parwan, who was the salutatorian of MLK’s Class of 2021, enrolled there in seventh grade after attending MNPS’s Harpeth Valley Elementary and Head Middle Magnet School. He said he was grateful for the two extra years in the high school environment and for all the opportunities he had to explore various interests, from psychology and comparative politics to music and biology.

He also was a student in the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, a joint venture between MNPS and Vanderbilt University that allows about 20 talented students from around the district each year to spend one day a week at Vanderbilt for all four years of high school. Parwan conducted research in the synthetic biology lab there.

“That was really helpful to me,” he said. “Not many kids can say they got to do that.”

Parwan also was involved in the Muslim Student Association, the Academic Worldquest Competition, and Science Olympiad. Now he’s set to attend Vanderbilt for college, with plans to major in Medicine, Health, and Society. He said the multidisciplinary major will allow him to explore and integrate various interests, including global affairs and biology, as he begins to prepare for a career in public health.

Congratulations and best of luck to Leo and Parwan as they set sail from MNPS into new adventures.
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Students,Class of 2021