SHS produces four National Merit semifinalists

From left to right: Sean Mackin, Sarah Heard, , Pepito Thelly and Noah Knox. The four SHS seniors are semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship. (Submitted Photo)
Staff Writer

The tradition of excellence continues at Starkville High School.

For 2017, the school has produced four semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship. Seniors Sarah Heard, Noah Knox, Sean Mackin and Pepito Thelly all scored in the top percentile on the PSAT, making them eligible for a National Merit Scholarship.

Finalists for the scholarship will be announced in February. From the pool of approximately 15,000 finalists across the U.S., every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit scholarships worth $2,500.

About 1,000 corporate-sponsored scholarships will also be available. Select colleges and universities will also award some 4,000 college-sponsored National Merit awards to students planning to attend the sponsored institution.

Heard gave the SDN her thoughts on how she made it to the semifinals for the scholarship.

“I would say that I genuinely enjoy learning, so that motivates me to take harder classes and to study, because I actually have a genuine interest,” Heard said.

Heard said her parents were also supportive, always demanding excellence but never being too focused on letter grades. She also credited her sister Ceci Heard, a SHS alumna and student at the University of Pennsylvania, for pushing and encouraging her.

Knox gave some credit to the curriculum at SHS.

“I think we had a lot of opportunities, especially when we got to Starkville High School, to be in advanced courses as freshman and sophomores, so by the time we had gotten to our junior and senior years, we felt like we were ahead of the rest of the people,” Knox said.

Heard is applying to Mississippi State University and some out-of state colleges and is considering majors in chemical engineering or finance. Knox is applying to Vanderbilt University and MSU, considering a major in mechanical engineering. Thelly will also apply to MSU and other out-of-state schools. He is considering a major in the STEM fields. Mackin is undecided on a major, but is considering going to East Mississippi Community College to study music.

”I feel like I’m excited to move on past Starkville High School, and  get to go to these universities that we’ve been working towards trying to get in since we were freshman, but there’s definitely a lot of good memories that come from Starkville High, like the theatre productions I was in, being in choir and playing sports and having these guys in my classes,” Knox said.

Heard said despite the four being competitive with each other, they were good friends, having been in numerous classes together.

“We had a lot of opportunities through middle school and high school,” Thelly said. "I was really motivated by my parents and (Heard, Knox and Mackin), because competition makes you better.”

All four students also cited SHS math teacher Vijay Pacharne as a major influence.