McAllen ISD students continue to stand out. There are 2 groups of students that have excelled and make the entire city proud.

National Merit Scholar Finalists
McAllen ISD’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program students Gabriel Ramirez of McAllen High and Calvin Beck of McAllen Memorial High have been named National Merit Scholar finalists. This Spring, Ramirez and Beck will compete along with 1.6 million juniors for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth an approximate $33 million at the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) competition.

“We are very proud, for this is a statement to their hard work and everything they do in and out of the classroom,” said McAllen ISD Superintendent Dr. J.A. Gonzalez.

NMSC is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization based in Evanston, Illinois founded in 1955 to specifically conduct the Annual Merit Scholarship Program. Each year, high school officials nominate students with an outstanding academic record who are required to write an essay and earn satisfactory SAT scores. This is the 15th time in the past 16 years the district has produced at least one semifinalist.

Science in Space
An experiment on the possibility of growing tomatoes on Mars called “The Effects of Perchlorate on Plant Germination in Simulated Martian Conditions in Microgravity” created by another three Baccalaureate Diploma Program students was launched into the International Space Station on Saturday, February 18, 2017. Sabrina Benitez, Sofia Escobar and Juan Pablo Flanagan are the masterminds behind this project that is one of 21 selected from across the North American continent. This is a significant accomplishment considering 2,466 proposals were submitted.

The steady succession of landers on Mars since the mid-1990s, recent data on the planet’s geology and weather, and availability of water sparked the idea for this project. It was also found that Martian soil contains high levels of magnesium perchlorate – a contaminant toxic to humans. The planet’s significantly lesser of gravity was also considered. The student’s Type 3 Fluids Mixing Enclosure mini-lab containing Martian simulated soil, tomato seeds and distilled water to catalyze the germination, zoomed into space aboard the SpaceX CRS-10 during a live broadcast at

One main challenge was finding “Martian” soil, but the students discovered a volcano in Hawaii with a similar composition to the soil on Mars. Benitez, Escobar and Flanagan will monitor the experiment’s process.

Art became an integral part of this endeavor when McAllen ISD organized the first middle school and high school mission-patch design competition. Art instructors received 1,900 patch designs, and three judges selected seventh grader Grace Kelly of Morris Middle School and freshman Travis Zigler of Lamar Academy as the winners.

The success of these projects is possible thanks to the dedication of McAllen ISD Superintendent Dr. J.A. Cavazos, Secondary Science Coordinator Jeanette Nino, and Arts Coach & Lead Art Teacher Lisa Saenz-Saldivar.