National Merit Semifinalists

DeSoto Central had the most National Merit Semifinalists this year and were recently recognized at the school. They are: William Emmich, Benjamin Hamilton, Allan Herring, McKenzie House, Yousef Mahfood, Johnny Mitias, Annie Phan, Keigh Pickens, Kaitlyn Weirich, and Steven Zombirt.

Getting high school students ready to take the all-important college entrance exams is again paying off in DeSoto County.

The list of National Merit Semifinalists has been announced and several students from DeSoto County schools are on the list. Accomplishing the recognition means that they will be more able to attract scholarship money for their future education after high school. It also means they are in the running for scholarship money from the National Merit program itself.

The number of semifinalists in the national program from DeSoto County Schools has reached 27, and an additional three students from Northpoint Christian School were on the list. At least one homeschooled student from DeSoto County also is listed.

While being a semifinalist is an accomplishment in itself, the trail is not over. Reaching this level means eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) program and finalists from the list of national semifinalists will earn scholarship money from the program for their college career.

The journey began in the students’ junior year when they took the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, commonly called the PSAT. The semifinalists scored in the top one percent of the juniors taking the test.

The students have also declared that they are going to college in the fall after high school.

DeSoto County Schools Supt. Cory Uselton said the district puts an emphasis on providing district students courses to help them study for the PSAT tests.

“It’s really blossomed,” Uselton said. “Part of the reason why is the hard work of our teachers and administrators as far as working with these students on a daily basis. We’ve made this a priority and is something that we’ve budgeted for where we can have teachers working specifically with these students to help them prepare for the PSAT and then to help them with their ACT.”

Students who are in the PSAT prep courses have to qualify for the class by taking the PSAT test in their sophomore year and reach a qualifying score from that test.

“It’s basically a practice test,” said Uselton. “They go into the class at the end of their sophomore year and then into their junior year. They get their scores back at the beginning of their senior year.”

Here is the list of National Merit Semifinalists from DeSoto County Schools: Jared Fontenot (Southaven); Isaac Pearl and Matthew Robinson (Hernando); Wyatt Edwards and William Gibson; (Center Hill); Benjamin Beard, Reese Myres, Jordan Smith, Slane Steen, and Jordan Wootten (Olive Branch); Matthew Drummond, Racheal Embry, Julia Huffman, Jacob Nelson, Grace Schafer, Morgan Smith, and Brad Wiersema (Lewisburg); William Emmich, Benjamin Hamilton, Allan Herring, McKenzie House, Yousef Mahfood, Johnny Mitias, Annie Phan, Keigh Pickens, Kaitlyn Weirich, and Steven Zombirt (DeSoto Central).

In addition, three students from Northpoint Christian School were earlier announced as National Merit Semifinalists. They are Sammy Lee, Harrison Grant, and Ashlyn Wood.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.