One Starkville Academy student has been recognized as a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship this year.
Senior Bates Bennett was designated a finalist after being named a semifinalist last year. Bennett has attended Starkville Academy since kindergarten, and participates in the school’s quiz bowl team. He is also class president, and a member of the Volunteers Boys Soccer Team.
Bennett called being named a finalist a “great honor.”
“I know not a lot of people get it, so I’m really thankful to all my teachers who really pushed me to do good,” Bennett said.
He cited his mother, Starkville Academy Director of Technology and Classroom Innovation Kim Bennett as a major influence, both as a parent and as a teacher.
“She’s been a very big help,” Bennett said. “She taught me in middle school math, and right now she’s helping me with IT work.”
To be considered, Bennett first took the PSAT as a junior, and attained a high enough score to be considered for the semifinals, after being named a semifinalist, he took the SAT and was required to secure a letter of recommendation and write an application essay. His SAT score was 1540, out of 1600 points possible.
“It wasn’t just a one-off thing,” Bennett said. “There was a lot that went into it.”
Bennett is unsure where he will attend college, but plans to major in industrial engineering or systems engineering. He said he had applied to Mississippi State University and a few other institutions.
He said even from his elementary days at Starkville Academy, his teachers pushed him to succeed.
“I came into high school, and a lot of the teachers that had me when I was younger, the potential they saw in me was developed, and the high school teachers started building off what they had done and got me to where I am now,” Bennett said.
He said graduation would be bittersweet, but he was looking forward to the next chapter of his life.
“Part of me is sad it’s going to be over,” Bennett said. “I’ve had a great time here, but the other part of me is excited to see what’s new and what’s out there.”
Head of School Jeremy Nicholas said he was not surprised at Bennett’s success.
“I’ve known Bates for five years now,” Nicholas said, “This is my fifth year, and I will say we saw this coming. Even as an eighth grader, Bates was one of those kids who sets himself apart, not just because of his intellect, which obviously is extraordinarily high, but also because of his drive, his dedication to succeed, doing things above and beyond what most kids would ever do.”
Of the semifinalists nationwide, 15,000 were elevated to National Merit Finalist level. Of these students, approximately half will receive either a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship or various colligate or corporate scholarships.
“It’s wonderful,” Kim Bennett said. “He really is an independent young adult, and we appreciate that, and he really has worked hard for everything he’s done.”