Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Senior advances as Merit finalist

March 7, 2007

For two years running, a Tonganoxie High School senior has been named a National Merit Scholar finalist.

Last year it was Micah Titterington. Justin Smith is this year's honoree.

Justin, the son of Jeanne and Frank Smith, knows just what he plans to do with the scholarships he will receive.

"Right now my plans are to attend KU and do chemical engineering," Justin said Monday.

As a National Merit finalist, Justin is eligible for a $10,000 a year scholarship at Kansas University. And he said he thinks he'll have an additional yearly $4,000 engineering scholarship.

Justin learned of his promotion to finalist from semifinalist at the high school's recent National Honor Society event.

He was pleased, but not overwhelmed, with the news.

"Of the 16,000 who qualify as semifinalists, 15,000 go on to be finalists," Smith said.

"I was glad to hear it, but it wasn't totally, groundbreakingly shocking."

Learning is something that's always been fun for Justin. He recalled an early school experience -- kindergarten roundup.

"They wanted to see if you could count to 10," Justin said. "I said, 'Ten, I can count to 100.' I kept trying to show off, and I think to a 5-year-old mind it seemed a great feat to count to 100."

Justin said it's possible learning comes easier to him than it does to many. And the added effort he puts into it helps.

"I generally try to stay fairly diligent in everything I do," Justin said. "Some classes take more work."

He has his favorite areas of study, English and math.

And those were his best subjects on the American College Test. He made a 36 -- a perfect score -- in English, and a 35 in math.

Despite his academic prowess, Justin is unassuming.

He described himself as "laid back."

"I just don't get worked up about anything that much," Justin said, smiling. "I generally take things a little more passively. And I try to be a friendly and respectable person."

At THS, Justin has been involved in running sports. Monday marked the start of track season for him. He also participated in the school's debate and forensics programs.

According to the National Merit's Web site, more than 1.4 million juniors in nearly 21,000 high schools entered the 2007 National Merit Program by taking the 2005 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Of those, 16,000 became semifinalists. To become a finalist, a semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed and recommended by the school principal and earn SAT scores that confirm the student's earlier qualifying test performance.

Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships. Other corporate and university scholarships are also available for finalists.

The 2007 Merit Scholarship winners will be announced starting in April.

THS counselor Kathy Walker was pleased with Justin's placement as a finalist, and she expressed high hopes that he would go on to become a National Merit scholar.

"It's always wonderful to have a student achieve that kind of status," Walker said. "He's very deserving."

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