A Merrick student was honored as one of "40 Under 40 Rising Latino Stars" by the Hispanic Coalition of New York for having a positive impact in the community.

Samantha Hernandez, a junior at Sanford H. Calhoun High School, was the youngest person and the only high school student to receive the designation. The winners, which included two other Long Islanders, were recognized at an Oct. 11 ceremony in Albany.

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Hernandez was nominated by Christine Boyce, an advanced science research teacher at Calhoun. In Boyce's class, Hernandez has been studying the effects of bilingualism on the brain.

"I chose to explore the world of bilingualism because it's always been there at my side my whole life," said Hernandez, 16, who speaks Spanish at home and currently is studying French.

She said she plans an experiment in January aimed at assessing how proficiency in a second language can affect a student's ability to retain words in a new language.

"Samantha is the total package," Boyce said. "She is a standout student and has a passion for research."

At her school, Hernandez writes for the newspaper and is a member of Key Club, Students Against Destructive Decisions and Youth United for Global Action. She also does clerical work as a volunteer at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola.