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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Shooting for the stars

Owen Hoover recognized as Commended Student by NMSC
Owen Hoover
A bright future. Owen Hoover was awarded a letter of Commendation from the NMSC on Oct. 16. He now keeps a framed version of the letter in his home.

On Oct. 16, senior Owen Hoover was named a “Commended Student” in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program. He received a commendation letter from the National Merit Scholarship Committee that was presented to him by Principal Andrew Neely. 

Over 1.3 million students apply to participate in the program each year when taking the PSAT or the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Only the 50,000 highest scores are recognized by the NMSC, and only the top 16,000 of those students are awarded scholarships. 

“I was looking at taking the PSAT, and my mom knew someone who took the PSAT years ago and became a Commended Student,” Hoover said. “We saw that if you place in the top 16,000, you can qualify to be a semifinalist. About 90 to 95 percent of them get $2,000, and I thought ‘I’m gonna try to get that.’”

Hoover approached this challenge in a way that he tries to approach all academic hurdles- with blazing confidence. 

“I know that I’m not going to be overly anxious about it,” Hoover said. “I’m going to be confident about what I’m doing. If you’re confident, you’re going to be a lot more calm when test taking. That confidence isn’t easy to get, but once you ensure that you’re prepared, it becomes a lot easier.”

While Hoover did not win any scholarship money for his efforts, he still placed within the top four percent of students who took the PSAT or NMSQT. This accomplishment came off the back of Hoover’s strong work ethic and academic background.

Hoover spent four years in the Intermediate Math League of Eastern Massachusetts. He learned under Dr. Gill, a professor who helped shape how Hoover looks at mathematics. 

“The way that he taught was very conceptual, and I think understanding the concepts and why things are how they are is very important,” Hoover said. “It really sparked an interest in me and how I wanted to learn.”

Other teachers have played pivotal roles in Hoover’s academic development. He particularly credits math teacher Joseph Falger, who taught him for honors Algebra III, trigonometry and AP calculus. 

“Owen was very strong in mathematics,” Falger said. “He is very determined; he is great at critical thinking and analyzing. He is an all-around great student.”

Hoover’s next steps involve getting his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon and then his master’s in aerospace engineering. 

“I will likely have to move at that point because there’s nowhere to use an aerospace degree in this area,” Hoover said. “I will probably move closer to a bigger city down south. I’ve had a dream for years to actually work at NASA, which is surprisingly doable, but we will see what happens.”

Hoover has very large goals for the future and he does not intend on slowing down. Despite the significance of being named a “Commended Student,” his feelings are not all positive. 

“I didn’t know that I would actually get it,” Hoover said. “I had no idea what to expect. But it was also a little bittersweet because I know that when you’re up that high, it’s probably only one or two questions that separates you from being in the top 16,000. If I had just gotten one more question right, I might have gotten $2,000.” 

Even though he did not win any money, Hoover’s accomplishments provide a stepping stone for his future goals

“I think the possibilities are endless for Owen,” Falger said. “He is so driven and determined that I am confident he will be able to do whatever he chooses. His future will only be decided by wherever he chooses to set his goals.”

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