Region boasts several National Merit Semifinalists

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Shelby Carswell, of Saltillo High School.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Shelby Carswell, of Saltillo High School.

By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

Northeast Mississippi is well represented in this year’s class of National Merit Semifinalists, released today by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Eighteen Northeast Mississippi seniors were among 136 from Mississippi who earned the prestigious honor, based upon their scores on the Preliminary SAT standardized test they took during the fall of their junior years.

Among the recipients are 11 students from Oxford High School – Brian Clancy, Matthew Forgette, Yoomin Jo, Dion Kevin, Reid Mallette, Shreya Mathur, Mary Pearson, Abbigail Pullen, Cynthia Torma, Joelle Young and Yuqi Zhao.

“I think it is a credit to our students and the human resources we have in this community,” said Oxford Superintendent Brian Harvey, also noting the work of parents and the district’s teachers and administrators.

Also from the region are Mooreville High School’s Will Pate, Saltillo High’s Shelby Carswell, New Albany High’s Jamie Crow and Starkville High’s Emily Turner. Three of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science’s 12 recipients also are from the region – Nicholas Elder, Adina Harri and Hwanhee Park, all of Starkville.

“It is quite an honor,” said Mooreville’s Pate, who added that the national recognition was particularly meaningful. “It is like a reward for some of the hard work I’ve put in.”

Pate said he also took the PSAT as a sophomore and then concentrated on his strengths and weaknesses and was helped in his preparation by MHS geometry and physics teacher Debbie Jones. He has applied to the University of Mississippi and will soon apply to Vanderbilt and likely to other schools. He does not yet know what he intends to study in college.

Saltillo’s Carswell said she prepared for the PSAT by taking about five practice tests in the weeks before taking the real test last fall. She had also taken the test as a sophomore.

She wants to study engineering in college and is currently considering Georgia Tech, Clemson and Mississippi State.

“It is a really hard test, and I studied a lot for it,” she said. “Having the national recognition means a lot.”

New Albany’s Crow plans to major in either graphic design or psychology. She is currently considering attending Ole Miss, Alabama or perhaps Freed-Hardeman.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Will Pate, of Mooreville High School.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Will Pate, of Mooreville High School.

“Being a National Merit Semifinalist is really a great honor,” she said. “I’m really thankful for all of my teachers who have helped me accomplish this achievement. So far, it is the highlight of my academic career.”

This year’s Semifinalists are among about 16,000 in the nation. About 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to earn Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.

About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools took the PSAT last fall.

The pool of semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors.

Madison Central High School had the most Semifinalists in Mississippi with 22.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com