When 17-year-old Roy Vasquez finalizes his college choice, a milestone that’s still a few months away, he’ll become the first person in his family to attend college.
Although it’s still early in the application process for the Riverhead High School senior, he should find himself with plenty of options. That’s because Roy and fellow RHS senior Dominique Marichal, also 17, were recently named National Hispanic Scholars.
Every year the College Board, which administers the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, recognizes the 5,000 top-performing Hispanic students who take the exam in October of their junior year.
About 250,000 Hispanic and Latino students take that exam each year, according to College Board, meaning only about the top two percent of testers qualify for the National Hispanic Recognition Program.
In order to be recognized as a National Hispanic Scholar, a student must be at least 25 percent Hispanic or Latino and have at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point average (GPA) by the middle of their junior year.
The College Board administers the PSAT exam as a practice for the SAT and it’s typically taken during a student’s sophomore or junior years.
Both students received letters from the College Board toward the end of summer explaining that they were potential candidates for the award and asking for further information.
“It was pretty cool; I was excited,” said Dominique. “I was pretty confident because [the PSAT] was mostly stuff that has been done in class repeatedly.”
Last month Roy and Dominique learned they’d both received the National Hispanic Scholar distinction.
“I had no idea it existed, so I was a little confused,” Roy said. “Then I was surprised and proud.”
Riverhead guidance counselor Christy Salerno said she was happy to see Roy recognized for his accomplishments.
“Roy is an extraordinary student from a wonderful family,” she said.
Both seniors were also named Advanced Placement Scholars with Distinction, a designation given to students who score 3 or higher (out of 5) on five or more AP tests, with an overall average score of at least 3.5.
Roy has taken seven AP exams so far an expects to take another three this spring. Dominique has taken five and will also take three more later this year.
“It’s something I want to do forever,” Dominique said, adding that her interest was in science. “Academia is really interesting to me because I find learning really fun and I like finding out new things about the world.”
After graduation, Dominique hopes to major in either biology or physics, focusing on molecular biology, genetics or astrophysics. Roy said he hopes to major in engineering, although he’s not sure which discipline yet.
In addition to their academic achievements, Roy and Dominique participate in numerous extracurricular activities. Both belong to the high school drama club and chamber choir.
Dominique also studies taekwondo and participates in mathletes and a Woman in Science and Engineering class through Stony Brook University.
Roy has participated in a Latin competition, based on the “Jeopardy” quiz show. He said it’s his 7-year-old sister who inspires him to be so involved at school.
“I’m the oldest, so it’s an ‘I have to go and do it myself’ kind of thing,” he said. “So I want to be an example for her.”
Photo: Riverhead High School seniors Roy Vasquez and Dominique Marichal were recently named National Hispanic Scholars. (Credit: Nicole Smith)