national merit

 It was announced this week that 29 Alachua County Public School students have been named semifinalists in the prestigious 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program.

According to its website, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) was established in 1955 — a time in which there was concern that the United States was lagging behind in the cold war scientific race, but the public was indifferent to rewarding intellectual accomplishment. In response, the National Merit Scholarship Program was founded to identify and honor scholastically talented American youth and to encourage them to develop their abilities to the fullest. Through this nationwide competition, National Merit Scholarships are awarded to program Finalists and Special Scholarships are awarded to other high performing participants who meet a corporate sponsor's eligibility criteria.

To qualify, students must earn among the nation’s highest scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). About 1.5 million students took the exam to qualify this year, and about 16,000 have been named semifinalists.  

The students now have the opportunity to earn finalist status. In addition to earning high scores on the SAT, they will have to submit applications highlighting their other academic achievements, awards and honors earned, leadership activities, teacher recommendations and an essay.

Eastside High School has the largest group of semi finalists this year, with 14. Buchholz High has 12, and Gainesville High has three.

Students will learn in early spring of 2021 if they have reached finalist status. Finalists are eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarships provided by businesses, colleges and universities and other organizations. 

This year’s semifinalists are: Hari Grand, Aditya Gupte, Betsy Harnsberger, Matthew Hershfield, Michael Hershfield, Aarti Kalamangalam, Sean Raymond LaMadrid, David Liu, Jillian Provost, Delia Savin, Sneha Sujil, Elizabeth Thomason, Anzhe Yuan and Bill Zhao from Eastside High School; Amy Cao, Nicholas Caruso, Ted Gingrich, Jeremy Griffin, Sean Han, Olivia Lee, Daniel Liu, Robert Privette, Samuel Shlafer, Amy Xing, Albert Zhang and Qingyu Zhang of Buchholz High School; and Griffin Golde, Zachary Mulligan and Patrick Schanuth of Gainesville High School.

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