Five at The Hill named National Merit Semifinalists


Emily Merz

As the top scorers on the PSAT, Mary Lindsey, from left, Zoe Kinggard, Sebastian Askew, Jonathan Greganti and Adam Heath are National Merit Semifinalists from Center Hill High School.

Emily Merz, Staff Writer

History was made at Center Hill High School in September, when five seniors were recognized as National Merit Semifinalists. Sebastian Askew, Jonathan Greganti, Adam Heath, Zoe Kinggard and Mary Lindsey are part of a successful group of students who took the PSAT, or Preliminary SAT.

“The PSAT group from the Class of 2019 was a record-breaking group for Center Hill,” said Michelle Jones, who teaches PSAT along with Meredith Smith and Judy Terry. “We had a good feeling about the entire class from the very beginning. Their entrance cut score was higher than any previous group of sophomores, and it was one of the largest groups in Center Hill history to qualify for the PSAT class.”

The students did not disappoint, Jones said.

“The class produced five National Merit Semifinalists, a record for Center Hill, and one National Hispanic Recognition Scholar,” she said. “In addition, nearly all students in the class earned a place in the 30+ ACT club, with several earning composites over 30 and one scoring Center Hill’s first ever perfect 36.”

According to The College Board, the National Merit academic competition began in 1955. Students can qualify for the competition by taking the PSAT their sophomore and junior years.

“To me, being a National Merit semifinalist is gratification,” Lindsey said. “It’s proof that even through all the self-doubt I have of my abilities, hard work can pay off.”

Winners are selected based on test scores. The qualifying scores vary by state and are different every year. Many colleges and universities offer huge scholarships for National Merit Semifinalists and Finalists.

“There are two different types of scholarships,” Lindsey said. “You can get one from the NMSC for $2,500 or individual ones from colleges that vary from school to school.”

The financial reward is unmistakable, Greganti said.

“Being National Merit at the schools I’m looking at, it means just about a full ride – tuition, room and board, meal plan and books,” he said. “When combined with some other scholarships, it can mean a college or university will pay you to go there instead of you paying them.”

Greganti said being named a National Merit Semifinalist was unexpected.

“I went into the PSAT class in the middle of the pack,” he said. “After the class I expected to be maybe top 10, not 4. When Mrs. Terry called out my score I just about cried out of shock and joy.”

The five semifinalists must now go through an application process in order to possibly become finalists.

“The next step for me is just a matter of paperwork and writing an essay about why I deserve National Merit Finalist,” Greganti said.

The next PSAT will be offered at Center Hill Oct. 10.