High school scholars concentrated in Portland burb

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than a third of Oregon’s National Merit Scholars live in a single Portland-area ZIP code, an affluent, tech-oriented, immigrant-rich area of suburban Washington County.

The homes of ten of the 27 new scholars announced Wednesday are north of Beaverton in ZIP code 97229, where the median household income of $119,000 is twice the state average, The Oregonian reports.

The area is laden with subdivisions with highly educated families. About a fifth are immigrants from India, China and elsewhere. Nearly 2,800 Intel employees live there — more than in any other Oregon ZIP code except the one containing Intel’s main Oregon campuses, company figures show.

Nine of the winters are from Westview High School.

“We have a lot of Intel parents, a lot of engineers and parents with a lot of math and science background, and they model the hard work and the value of education for their kids,” said Principal Mike Chamberlain.

Most of the winners who live in the 97229 are immigrants or children of immigrants, primarily from China. Only citizens or those on their way to becoming citizens are eligible for National Merit awards.

One of the scholars, Raghev Tripathi, who was born in Texas and raised in Oregon, was named Oregon’s male Presidential Scholar on Monday. He cites the concentration of motivated, talented students, along with good teachers and encouraging parents.

“There are a lot of (students) like me who are motivated and have that same ambition,” he said. “At times it gets competitive, but that helps push people forward.”

The National Merit Corporation awards $2,500 scholarships annually to students with the highest PSAT and SAT scores who also earn top grades in challenging classes, write a strong essay and show evidence of contributing to their schools and communities. Winners are in the high end of the 99th percentile of the nation’s seniors.

Oregon students who reach those heights are mainly in well-off neighborhoods in Portland, Beaverton and Lake Oswego. Just one who lives outside those areas won a National Merit award this year, Nathan Johnson, of McMinnville.

Overwhelmingly, the winners from 97229 plan to study math, science and technology related fields, including engineering, computer science and medicine.

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