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Henley senior named National Merit Scholar Finalist

Daily studying and test practice paid off for a 15-year-old Henley High School senior who last month was named a National Merit Scholar Finalist.

Henley High School senior Charlie Xu has been named a National Merit Scholar Finalist, an honor earned by less than 1% of students who take the PSAT and SAT exams.

Charlie Xu scored in the top 1% on both the PSAT and SAT college tests to qualify for the honor. Each year, nearly 1.5 million students take the test. In February, 15,000 were notified that they are finalists and qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

“That Charlie is an outstanding student is obvious, but he is so much more than that as part of our student body – he is a leader, an athlete, and a young man of incredible character,” said Andrea Gray, principal of Henley High School. “We are proud that he is a Hornet and excited for his achievement. This recognition couldn’t be bestowed on anyone more deserving.”

Charlie isn’t your typical high school senior. He speaks Chinese and English fluently and he is two years younger than most of his classmates. His parents, Muwen Xu and Zhihong Li, immigrated to the U.S. from rural China 20 years ago. Charlie and his younger sister were born in Klamath Falls.

Since Chinese was his first language, Charlie said he was not yet fluent in English when he started grade school. But he soon excelled, skipping sixth and eighth grades and entering high school as a pre-teen. He will be the first person in his family to attend college.

His favorites subjects are science and math — he always liked math because as a young student, he did not need to know English fluently to learn it.

“At the beginning it was hard to learn English, but math is universal no matter what language you speak,” he said. “So I got a head start in that, and it’s something I really enjoyed doing.”

At Henley, Charlie participates in swim, cross country and tennis as well as the robotics, engineering, and Key clubs. He also is a member of National Honor Society and works summers as a lifeguard at the Ella Redkey Pool.

A 4.0 student, Charlie plans to study aerospace engineering and wants to eventually work for NASA, Boeing or Space X, designing next generation aircraft. His first choice of college is MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), but he also applied to Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, and Oregon State University.

His advice for other students wanting to be National Merit Scholars: Review your math and English coursework, then review it again. Take practice tests through the Kahn Academy, and for the SAT, study what you missed on the PSAT. He studied for about an hour a day for a month before the SAT, and ended up earning a 1560 out of 1600 with a superscore of 1590.

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