Local student named National Scholar semifinalist
Bishop Verot High School senior Xavier Caangay has been named a semifinalist in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship program, putting him in a group representing less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors.
Caangay, of North Fort Myers, said he was honored to be named among the elite students nationwide.
“I really think this will open up a lot of opportunities for me that would otherwise be closed. I think this could get me into a high-tiered college, maybe Ivy League,” Caangay said.
Caangay is one of only 16,000 students nationwide to be recognized among the 1.5 million juniors who entered the competition by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).
Caangay said he couldn’t have done it alone. He has had a strong support group behind him.
“I want to give credit to those who helped me. The SAT and PSAT classes I took to help me get ready. My parents have helped push me to get across the finish line so I could knock it out of the park on the tests,” Caangay said.
Maria Barbato, director of school counseling, said he is a hard worker who takes on a challenging curriculum in advanced placement classes and takes part in the school’s scholar academy geared toward the school’s top students, of which he has been part since he was a freshman.
Caangay also is a member of the boy’s cross-country team where his coach said likes to contribute to the team and sets goals to improve himself.
“Xavier is a hard-working student-athlete and is dedicated to the program. He practices every day and pushes himself to the limit,” said Jorge Fleitas, who is also an assistant principal.
Barbato said Caangay takes the same approach to everything he does, in and out of the classroom.
“He volunteers a lot in the community, especially the Knights of Columbus on their spaghetti dinners and barbecues and has started ushering at his church,” Barbato said. “He also started a fishing tournament to raise funds for a scholarship program through the Knights.”
Barbato said the money collected through the program helps students attend private schools such as Verot that they may not have been able to attend otherwise.
Caangay said his goal is to be a finalist in the short term. He has not decided on a school yet, but is considering the University of Florida, where his parents went, and will major in computer engineering.
“I’m not the smartest kid at Bishop Verot, but I’m one of the best test takers because of the training I went through by taking practice SAT exams,” Caangay said.
These students have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million to be offered next spring, after fulfilling several requirements to advance to Finalist standing.
Those students need to apply, attached with letters of recommendation and a student essay. The winners are announced in the spring.