SHS announces three National Merit semifinalists

Three SHS students qualified as National Merit Semifinalists for the 2018-2019 school year. Front row, from left to right: Soul Park, SHS Principal Sean McDonnall and Ahmed Hassan. Back Row, from left to right: Madeline Tegt and SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

The tradition of excellence continues at Starkville High School, with three seniors making the cut as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

The three students - Soul Park, Madeline Tegt and Ahmed Hassan - scored in the top one percent of Mississippi students on the PSAT. Their scores on the SAT later this year will determine whether they are named a finalist and compete for one of 2,500 National Merit Scholarships at $2,500 each. Various college and corporate scholarships are also available to students. The nationwide group of approximately 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists represents less than one percent of high school seniors in the U.S.

The three semifinalists follow in the footsteps of four semifinalists for the 2017- 2018 school year, and similar numbers in years past.

“These three are going to land on their feet no matter what they choose to do,” said SHS Principal Sean McDonnall. “It’s just exciting to have them as part of our student body.”

McDonnall said SHS had put more PSAT preparation programs in place in recent years.

“We’re excited about that, and we’re of course, elated that these three have made it, and they represent us well, and have been a joy to have in the hallways the last four years,” McDonnall said.

Park, who has applied early decision to Columbia University with a major declared in industrial engineering, said she was thankful SHS prepared her for the test. She also named SHS calculus teacher Vijay Pacharne as a supporter and influence.

“I’m really glad that I made it this far, because I wasn’t expecting it,” Park said.

Park said she had a feeling she might have made the cut when she saw her PSAT scores for the first time.

“I’m really interested in doing communications and PR, but also, I enjoy math,so I found a bridge between those two, and industrial engineering really works with people, but also numbers and connecting those two,” Park said.

Park also spoke highly of Tegt and Hassan, saying she considered the two close friends and had known them since elementary school.

Hassan also named Pacharne as an influence, along with SHS history teacher Ty Adair.

“It’s good to make it to this point,” Hassan said. “We all worked hard for it. It’s nice.”

Hassan has sent an early application to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and plans to major in computer science. Hassan also lauded Park and Tegt, who he has known since elementary school.

“They’re both incredible students,” Hassan said. “They’re brilliant, both of them, and it’s an honor to share it with them.”

Tegt hopes to study biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the intention of going to medical school.

“I’m really proud of myself for having done this, and I’m proud of my classmates as well,” Tegt said. “It was really exciting to hear that we made it to finals.”

She said the advanced placement (AP) classes she took helped prepare her for the qualifying test.

Superintendent Eddie Peasant said the students were examples of the district’s commitment to “expect excellence every day.”

“Their success in academia and school and their studies is just really a great honor for them and a testament to their really hard work in all their years in school,” Peasant said. “It’s always exciting to see students excel and reach their goals.”