College • Two Utah high school seniors awarded $2,000 scholarships.
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It's a recurring theme: American students are falling behind other countries in math and science.
But students like West High's Delian Asparouhov and Cottonwood High's Katrina Wright are doing more than their part to bring up the national average.
The two students have won the Siemens Award for Advanced Placement. Both teens earned perfect scores (5 out of 5) on all of their AP math and science tests last year. Each year, the Siemens Foundation finds the boy and girl from each state who performed the best on these tests and gives them a $2,000 scholarship.
AP tests are given at the end of grueling courses, such as AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Chemistry and AP Statistics. Simply earning a passing grade (3 out of 5) is difficult. Asparouhov and Wright aced every test they tried.
"We felt the need to attract more and more students into the math and science disciplines because we feel that those are the disciplines that are going to have the solutions for the global challenges that we have, such as clean energy, health care, clean water, the environment, and the efficiency of manufacturing in the United States," said Tom McCausland, chairman of the Siemens Foundation board.
This fall, Asparouhov will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Wright is still deciding between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.
"I was really happy and told my parents about it," said Wright, who plays the piano and violin. "They were really proud of me."
Meanwhile, busy Asparouhov forgot to tell his mother he'd won the award for a few weeks. The Bulgarian-born teen was nonchalant about the Siemens Award, but not about being accepted to MIT.
"We heard a huge scream from downstairs," remembered Elena Asparouhova of the day in December her son learned his dream of attending MIT would come true.
Asparouhov chose MIT over his parents' alma mater, California Institute of Technology, because it has a varsity crew team. Rowing is a passion of his, along with building and programming robots.
"I'm not surprised; he's absolutely brilliant," said Erick Chen, a fellow West student, when he heard about his friend's award. "One of the great things about him is he is remarkably humble about his achievements. There are certain types of people who wear their AP scores stamped across their forehead, and he isn't one of them."
Both students plan to pursue careers in the math or science fields.
"These students are in the top hundredth of one percent of students in the country," McCausland said. "These are the best and brightest kids in math and science in the country."