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Simas a National Merit Scholarship finalist
Joe Simas of Ceres is one smart guy. His exceptional performance on the high school PSAT taken in his junior year was so high that he's been named a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

The Ceres High School senior is being awarded a $2,500 college scholarship. Scoring a 223 out of a possible 240 - in the 99th percentile - makes him one of the smartest high schoolers in America. To illustrate the rarity, consider that of the 1.5 million entrants in the program, about 50,000 qualify for recognition. Of those, only 16,000 semi-finalists are named. Then, 8,200 merit scholars are chosen. Of them, only 2,500 scholars are given $2,500 scholarships underwritten by corporations and business organizations, colleges and universities, and by NMSC.

But that's not all. His high score piqued the interest of several universities who offered full-ride scholarships, including the University of Alabama, University of Houston and University of New Mexico. He recently toured these campuses on the February break but decided to take a full-ride Presidential Scholarship at California State University, Long Beach. He also had the option of going to UC Berkley and CSU San Diego where he was accepted.

"They're offering me a really good scholarship package," said Simas. "First of all the location, it's great. It's just a couple of miles from the beach and that's obviously an appeal for me. As well, I really felt like they will care for me there. I went down and visited and felt like they would have a vested interest in me and do all the things to help me do better because I was part of this program."

Long Beach is still close enough to visit family in the Central Valley, he added.

During all four years at CHS, Simas has been involved in football and track teams.

Despite his academic success, Simas is not destined to be the class valedictorian or salutatorian as he is about fourth or fifth in his class.

"I am in a really strong senior class," explained Simas, "and it's really good that I got the National Merit finalist award because it kind of allows me to stand out in a class of so many other great, just intelligent, good people."

Simas has regularly participated in the Stanislaus County Academic Decathalon and has earned awards for his extremely high SAT scores.

He credits his parents, Robb and Rosie Simas, for most of his drive to excel academically.

"My parents have always encouraged me to do the best I could. They always encouraged me to read ever since I was young. They always read to me. And they've always instilled in me the value that education comes first and I have followed that to a tee and I've tried my best. And as well, I think Ceres High School has done a very good job of preparing me."

Because of his great interest in his calculus class, Joe believes he would be well fitted in a career involving engineering. He also enjoys history and can see himself as a college history professor.