Five Jackson Hole seniors have been named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, one fewer than last year but still more than any other area in the state of Wyoming.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation “honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies,” according to a press release.
The company warns against using the program to measure the quality of high schools, educational systems or states.
The seniors honored are James Slattery from Jackson Hole Community School and Sophia Andrikopoulos, Abigail Brazil, Elizabeth Chambers and Emilie Gocke from Jackson Hole High School.
Laramie has four National Merit finalists. Casper and Evanston have two each, and Cheyenne, Gillette and Powell each have one.
“These are students I’d like to congratulate on all their hard work, not only being national semifinalists but their accomplishments both in and out of the classroom,” Jackson Hole High School Principal Scott Crisp said.
“They’re great examples of students who not only achieve academically but achieve in their clubs, their sports and activities as well, which makes a well-rounded student,” he said.
Crisp said the students are examples of how being “highly engaged” in all capacities of the school “does pay dividends.” He said the test is one of few metrics that allow students to compare themselves at a national level.
“It’s great to see where our students land,” Crisp said.
There are approximately 16,000 semifinalists across the country. They will have the chance to continue in the competition for around 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million to be offered next spring.
About 1.6 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2015 Preliminary SAT, or PSAT. Taking the PSAT in the fall as a sophomore at Jackson Hole High School is optional, not mandatory like the ACT test is for juniors.
“Some kids don’t take it but are just as accomplished academically,” Crisp said. “We do have others that would be right there if they took the PSAT as well.”
The nationwide pool of semifinalists, who represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, are the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
“It’s quite the accomplishment,” Crisp said.
Last year six valley students were named semifinalists. Four attended Jackson Hole Community School. They credited the culture there as one reason they achieved the honor. Jackson Hole High School had one student make the cut, and so did Journeys School.
Anna Bowdler of Jackson Hole High School made it to the final round and became a National Merit Scholar in 2015.
To become a finalist the five students must submit a detailed scholarship application that includes information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment history, honors and awards.
They must also be endorsed and recommended by a high school official and write an essay.
Finalists will be notified in February. Winners will be announced starting in April through July and will join more than 323,000 young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.