PENDLETON - Maria Martinez, 17, took the PSAT tests last year along with most of her Pendleton High School junior classmates. After receiving the scores she put it out of her mind.

Martinez had been chosen as one of the 4,500 semifinalists from among the more than 119,00 students nationwide who took part in the National Hispanic Recognition Program.

"I was definitely surprised," Martinez said. "I took them and got my scores, then about a month later I got a letter saying I was a semifinalist."

Busy with her duties in the Pendleton High School Literary Club, the National Honor Society, working after school and playing in the high school band, she again quickly forgot about the award. But the program had asked for a copy of Martinez's grade-point average, a list of her classes and an evaluation letter from her counselor. All of these items were duly sent in on her behalf.

Last month Martinez received another surprise letter; this one also contained a certificate naming Martinez as a scholar in the program and placing her among the top 5 percent of the finalists. Although the designation carries no monetary award, it does allow Martinez to apply for a scholarship offered by the College Board, sponsors of the program.

Her name also will be placed on a list distributed to four-year colleges and could provide her with an opportunity to hear from colleges particularly interested in prospective students of Hispanic heritage.

After graduation, Martinez said she hopes to attend Reed College in Portland, where she will pursue a bachelor's degree in English.

"I have always liked English," Martinez said. "I think it has been a combination of good English teachers and a family that's been very supportive."

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