McNary High School senior Zach Abbas was recently  named a National Merit Finalist, one of just 15,000 such students around the country. (Submitted)

McNary High School senior Zach Abbas was recently named a National Merit Finalist, one of just 15,000 such students around the country. (Submitted)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Of all the high school students in the country, McNary High School senior Zach Abbas has an honor few others can claim: National Merit Finalist.

“I wasn’t expecting to be a semifinalist. I was completely blown away. Then hearing that I was a finalist … it was just crazy,” Abbas said.

Abbas qualified as a semifinalist based on his PSAT scores as a junior, then submitted an application and essay to achieve his finalist status. He’s one of 15,000 finalists in the U.S. – the only one from McNary – and about half of those will receive scholarships.

“Zack is not only very intelligent, he is one of the kindest, most compassionate, hardworking young mn I have ever worked with,” said Stephanie Hanson, Abbas’s counselor at McNary.

Abbas has a 3.78 grade point average and balances that with working at Walgreens part time and other extracurricular activities. Teacher Dan Borresen said writing has always been a strong suit for Abbas. One testament to that was his inclusion in the annual anthology of student creative writing produced by McNary’s Write Club.

“Zach has the ability to view concepts and reading activities from varying perspectives. This unique skill allows him to connect to ideas and the claims of authors in a thorough and scholarly manner, making his insights and analyses incredibly thoughtful and perceptive. High school students often struggle when asked to consider other perspectives; Zach does it naturally,” Borresen said. “I always enjoy reading his articles and essays.”

This semester, he’s taking three advanced placement courses in biology, European history and literature. Abbas is still taking stock of his options for college, but he has a fairly clear goal in mind.

“I always thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I started working at Walgreens and talking with the pharmacists and pharmacy techs.  Conversations with them swayed me. Now I’m going to pursue a pharmacy degree. I think providing the medicine for patients will be just as interesting,” he said.

With so many balls in the air already, Abbas is still making time to mentor younger students and imbue them with his interest in reading and writing.

“I’ve been working with a friend coaching an elementary school team for Oregon Battle of the Books. As a student, I took part in it as a member of a team, but it’s cool to be on the opposite end of that,” he said.

Abbas is the son of Janine and Dan Kidd and Harry “Leon” and Nanette Abbas.