Ten Odessa High School students found themselves in very select company when they were awarded National Merit and College Board honors.

The high school celebrated them with a breakfast Sept. 21 in the OHS Performing Arts Center.

Akshathh Mukkera earned National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist honors and will continue in the National Merit Scholarship competition. About 16,000 of the 1.5 million students who enter the NMS program qualify as semifinalists.

Principal Mauricio Marquez said very few students across the nation have achieved what they have.

“… So I say that to you because it’s about you. You wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for your dedication, your commitment to excellence, coming to school each day, really doing your part when it comes to your academics,” Marquez said. “But part of that also (is) no one does it on their own. Nobody, I don’t care who it is, nobody gets to this level on their own,” he added.

Love, support and dedication from loved ones is one of those factors, so Marquez asked the students to say thank you to them.

“… Sometimes we forget to say those two little words, either thank you, or I love you mom and dad and I appreciate all that you do for me,” Marquez added.

Mukkera said becoming a National Merit Semifinalist is a great opportunity.

“I’m very thankful for my teachers from when I was very young, all the way back home in India and all the way up to this point for motivating me to try to do my best and to (succeed) in any way,” Mukkera said.

The 17-year-old said he has lived in the United States for 11 years. Both of his parents are doctors, he said.

Mukkera didn’t speak English when he was small. He said he adjusted through dedication and never giving up.

“… I used to struggle a lot in English because I was trying to translate between two languages. You just have to put in the hours, put in the reps of trying to understand what you’re trying to read and write,” he added.

Mukkera said he plans to study medicine in college and hopefully join the space program working for NASA or SpaceX.

Anastacio Pando, a 16-year-old junior, won the National Rural and Small-Town/National Hispanic Designated Scholar.

Pando said he was very proud to be recognized in this way.

“I’m very grateful for the people that helped me like my parents and my teachers. I’m just very excited to have gotten this,” Pando added.

He said the award will help him be more confident in himself. Pando said he was surprised to have done as well on the test as he did.

“I feel glad that all my parents’ and my hard work paid off,” Pando said.

The College Board offers several other recognition programs that grant academic honors students can include on college and scholarship applications. Colleges use these honors to identify students from underrepresented groups who have excelled on their PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, or AP Exams and in their classrooms. Those are:

National Rural and Small-Town Designated Scholar: Maxine Flores (OHS).

National Rural and Small-Town/National Hispanic Designated Scholar: Nisabella Karais (New Tech Odessa); Anastacio Pando, Elayne Brito, Marissa Rodriguez, Melany Coss, Rigoberto Mendoza, Sebastian Ramirez, and Viviana Santillan (OHS); Alison Blount, Angel Luna, Jacey Anglin, Joaquin Armendariz, Madelynn Ramirez, Noe Rodriguez, and Nydia Brito (Permian High School).

National Rural and Small-Town/National Hispanic/National Indigenous Designated Scholar: Julias Saenz (OHS); National Rural and Small-Town/ National Hispanic/African American Designated Scholar: Sara Aberra (PHS).