13 named National Merit semifinalists

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Thirteen Northeast Mississippi students were named National Merit Semifinalists today by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
That list includes Oxford High School’s Maia Cotelo, David Li, Andrew Mullen and Siyuan Wu; Starkville High School’s Maggie George, John Madsen and Brian Xu; Tupelo High School’s Rick Deaton and Abby Grace and Corinth High School’s Abbigaile Noyes.
Also, eight students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science received the distinction, including three from Northeast Mississippi: Mikhail Gaerlan (Tupelo), William Hudson (West Poinit) and Charlotte Wang (Starkville).
The students are among about 16,000 semifinalists in the nation recognized for their scores on last year’s Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. That test was taken by about 1.5 million juniors in the country.
“It is very exciting and a great opportunity,” Deaton said.
This year marked the first time in several years that Tupelo High School had multiple National Merit semifinalists. The school has a long history of producing semifinalists and had 11 in one year, but produced just one in each of the last two years and none in the two years before that.
It has increased its efforts to produce more of the prestigious scholars.
Deaton and Grace each said that the key for them was to practice taking the test in ninth and 10th grade, before taking it for real as juniors.
“You should take challenging classes,” Grace said when asked what advice she would offer younger students. “The reward you will get from them is always greater than the effort you give.”
She also said that extra curricular participation helped her develop critical thinking and reasoning skills.
National Merit Finalists will be named during the spring.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com