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El Paso ISD home to the county’s only 2022-23 National Merit Semifinalists

(EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT – Sept. 15, 2022) – Coronado and Franklin high schools are home to El Paso County’s only National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced Wednesday.

Coronado’s Deena Al-Dahwi and Franklin’s Anna Dixon are among the more than 16,000 semifinalists in the 68th annual National Merit Scholarship program. Al-Dahwi and Dixon will be competing for 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million. National Merit Scholars are announced in the spring.

Deena Al-Dahwi

Al-Dahwi, who’s among the top 1% of her graduating class, received a near-perfect 1560 on her SAT. An International Baccalaureate student and AP Scholar with a passion for classical piano, Al-Dahwi founded the school’s Scientists without Borders Club with her twin sister, Lilo. She also is an All-State Choir student involved in National Honor Society, Key Club and HOSA.

“I was beyond thrilled and honored by the news,” Al-Dahwi said. “The 2021 test was quite challenging versus past papers, and the Texas National Merit cutoff is amongst the highest within the states. Making it to semifinalist is a wonderful reward for the hours of hard work.”

Al-Dahwi logged into Khan Academy to practice and study for the PSAT, the test used to determine National Merit. Her advice to juniors currently prepping for the October test is to, “study as many hours as you can but do not overdo it. Sometimes, obsessing over standardized tests may drive you to do worse. And I listened to good music throughout.”

Al-Dahwi is still undecided on which college she wants to attend but she’s already applied to UTEP, UT Austin and Rice.

“As I am passionate about science and service, I would love to take a pre-med path and major in neuroscience or biology,” she said.

Anna Dixon

Dixon, who is No. 3 in her class, is applying to a long list of colleges including Stanford University, UT Austin, Georgia Tech, Caltech and BYU. She plans to study engineering and applied physics with a possible minor in computer science. Dixon learned early Wednesday about the National Merit semifinalist recognition.

“I was called into the principal’s office and was terrified I had done something wrong,” Dixon said. “When Ms. (Amanda) Bowser told me the good news, I cried tears of joy. I was so happy that my hard work and worrying finally paid off. I immediately called my mom and dad to celebrate with them, too.”

The senior, who moved to Franklin last year, quickly got involved on campus. She’s president of Franklin DECA, the energy and environment chair for Student Council and secretary of National Honor Society. She is also involved in Future Business Leaders of America, Key Club, Mu Alpha Theta, UIL Mathematics and the Compassion Club.

Her advice to juniors taking the test: “Study, study, study! Anyone can make a good score as long as you put in the work. Even if it doesn't pan out for you this year, study hard for the SAT in the spring.”

El Paso ISD has traditionally been one of the few districts in El Paso County with National Merit semifinalists and finalists. El Paso County’s only two 2022 National Merit Scholars were Luke Miller and Samuel Kligman, Coronado graduates who now attend Princeton University.

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photos by Leonel Monroy, Jr.