BELEN — Two local high-schoolers are setting the bar high nationwide for testing.

Veronica Batista and Grady Cox, Infinity High School sophomore and junior, respectively, have scored in the 90th percentile or higher on their PSATs.

The Preliminary Scholastic Amplitude Test is required for all sophomores across the country, and juniors take the test if they plan to continue on to college.

Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photo
Infinity High School sophomore Veronica Batista, left, and junior Grady Cox, right, both scored in the 90th percentile or better on their recent PSATs.

High scores on even the preliminary test can open up scholarship opportunities and broaden school choices, said IHS test coordinator Kassandra Baca.

“Taking it increases scholarship opportunities, such as the National Merit Scholarship,” said Baca. “It also increases school choice because as you begin to apply, they’ll ask for the scores.

“This helps create a lot more options for them. This is nationwide, all 10th graders. We’re not just looking at the Belen school district or New Mexico. We’re looking across the nation.”

Taking the test is a way to see where you are academically, Batista said, so you can prepare better for your path forward.

Both she and Cox attended Belen Family School before attending Infinity, something that helped them both, she said.

“Preparation for it really started in middle school,” Batista said. “We were set up with a very strong foundation, which has helped us for the past few years, getting ready for these tests.”

The PSAT is a timed test that lasts two hours and 45 minutes, and consists of three tests — reading, writing and language, and math. The average score is about 920, according to, a not-for-profit test preparation service, and a score between 1210 and 1520 puts students in the top 10 percent of test takers.

Scoring in the 90th percentile or better puts Batista and Cox in that top 10 percent nationwide.

As a junior, this is the second time Cox took the PSAT, this time with an eye towards a higher score.

“Miss Baca said there may be a scholarship opportunity for me, so that kind of helped me push for a good score,” Cox said.

Since it was her first year testing, Batista said she wasn’t sure what to expect but added Baca did a very good job of explaining what was going to happen and helping students find practice tests and study guides.

On the other hand, this being his second time taking the test, Cox said he was able to manage his time better, answering all the questions and bettering his score from his sophomore year.

After high school, Batista plans to study medicine. Cox is eyeing a career in sports management.

Baca said not only do the high scores reflect well on Batista and Cox but IHS as a whole, with its student body evolving over the school’s existence.

“Infinity was initially known as being a credit recovery school, but in the last few years it has shifted to also serving students who are higher level achievers,” she said. “We have students who are on a spectrum from credit recovery to on-track to being ahead.

“To have them both score in the 90th percentile or higher is amazing. We’ve never seen that here and then to have two students perform in that capacity, it’s exciting for us. We just want people to understand Infinity has gone through a big dynamic shift. We’re not just a school where discipline problem students go,” Baca said.

“On behalf of (principal David) Jimenez and myself and the staff, we are proud of all our students.”

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.