Kelly Walsh Seniors Rank as National Merit Finalists
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The National Merit Scholarship program chooses 15-20 Semifinalists from Wyoming every September; this year, two were from Casper—KW seniors Harriet J. Norcross and Jonah S. Spicher—and both students recently progressed to Finalist standing.
Last fall, approximately 1.6 million high school juniors took the PSAT test and entered into the running for a National Merit Scholarship. In early September, 2016, 16,000 seniors were chosen as Semifinalists. In Wyoming, only 17 seniors were chosen; two of those students are from Casper, and both attend Kelly Walsh High School. Jonah S. Spicher and Harriet J. Norcross, who excel in both academics and extra-curricular activities, learned mid-February that they are two of the 15,000 Finalists in the program.
The National Merit Scholarship program, established in 1955, awards three types of scholarships to students based on “their abilities, skills, and accomplishments—without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.” The NMSC selectors evaluate “the Finalist’s academic record, information about the school’s curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, the high school official’s written recommendation, information about the student’s activities and leadership, and the Finalist’s own essay,” according to the National Merit website.
The three scholarships available to winners are as follows: the National Merit $2500 scholarship, awarded on a state-representational basis; corporate-sponsored (4-year renewable or one-time) Merit Scholarship awards, awarded to “children of their employees or members, for residents of a community where a company has operations, or for Finalists with career plans the sponsor wishes to encourage;” and
college-sponsored (4-year renewable or one-time) Merit Scholarship awards, awarded to “Finalists who have been accepted for admission and have informed NMSC by the published deadlines that the sponsor college or university is their first choice.”
“The National Merit Scholarship award is very prestigious,” said Kelly Walsh High School counselor Marial Choma, who called even Spicher and Norcross’s semifinalist rankings an “outstanding achievement.” “Less than 1% of graduating high school seniors will qualify,” she said.
From March to mid-June, approximately 7,500 Finalists will be notified that they have been chosen to be a Merit Scholarship award recipient. In addition to winners drawn from the pool of Finalists, around 1,200 National Merit Program participants who are not Finalists are awarded Special Scholarships provided by corporations and business organizations every year.
Spicher attributes his success in the National Merit program to determination and self-motivation. “I’ve always kept a busy schedule,” he said. “I try to always be learning at least something, and to be challenged in some way.” Only time will tell if his actions will continue to pay off; in May, the results will show whether or not the Trojans have a National Merit Scholar in their midst.