Mary Kumcheva is a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship.

ESSEX — Mary Kumcheva is not only a semifinalist for an extremely competitive national scholarship, but is paving a way for more women to enter into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields of study.

Kumcheva is a senior at Eastern Tech High School and recently found out she is a semifinalist for the 2020 National Merit Scholarship. This scholarship selected from a pool of about one million students in 22,000 high schools across the country who took the pre SAT to be semifinalists. Kumcheva is one of 16,000 who has made it this far in the scholarship process. Kumcheva was shocked when she found out she was chosen as a semifinalist.

“It’s such a small number of students who are selected and I was hoping my PSAT score would be good enough,” Kumchave said. “Now I have to fill in an application about my extra curricular activities and an essay I have to write to be in the running for a finalist.”

Kumchave is not short on any extracurricular activities. She is involved in the MESA (Math Engineering Science Achievement) program, is the chief of staff for the Maryland Association of Student Councils, president of the Math Honor Society, and helps operate the Coding Club which aims to help more female and minority students become involved with science, technology, engineering, and math. Kumchave says she plans on studying chemical engineering in college and hopes to encourage other girls in her class to take more STEM focussed classes.

“In this school the gender ratios in STEM classes are not quite where I hoped they would be but it’s still an improvement from national averages.”

There are many studies that back up Kumcheva’s claim that less women are involved with or working in STEM related fields. According to The American Association of University Women, women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, but there are fewer women scientists and engineers in todays work force than men. Women make up 50 percent of the labor market but only 28 percent of women work in the STEM labor force. Kumcheva realizes this and hopes her work at Eastern Tech can equalize the gender gap within the STEM field.

”Anyone can be involved in these fields. Sometime it just takes their peers realizing that they can move a project to completion and do well for them to realize they can do it.” Kumcheva said. “I plan to encourage others to keep the clubs going here at the school after I graduate. It would be nice to come back in a few years and see how things I have been involved in have grown and expanded.”

Kumcheva said she’s still early in her college planning process and still wants to enjoy being in high school and encourage underclassmen to do do the same.

”Now a days it’s becoming more common to see high school as a four year race for college but I think it’s important to remember that you only get four years of high school so enjoy it while you can,” Kumcheva said. “Make sure you take time for yourself and take time to breath and sleep because it’s really important.”

Kumcheva plans to follow her own advise and “put her best foot forward” to work towards becoming a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship. There are 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million that will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July.

Although Kumcheva is proud of her PSAT score and her semifinalists status, she emphasized that she doesn’t take it all too seriously and hopes other students don’t become overly stressed about applying for colleges and taking the SAT.

”I know this is hard advise to take but just be relaxed when you go in to take a test. Just realize that this test won’t make or break your future. For me, once I realized that my life ins’t hanging on the line with this test it made it a lot easier to relax. “

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