Seven bright minds are one step closer to becoming National Merit Scholars after each has been named a semifinalist in the annual scholarship program.
The students, three of whom attend public school, three of whom attend private school and one of whom is home-schooled, are among approximately 16,000 high school seniors to receive the honor.
However, the competition is not over, and each has the opportunity to continue on for some 8,200 Merit Scholarship awards, worth a total of $34 million. To do that, they must advance to the finalist level.
All finalists must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the school principal, score well on the SAT and write an essay detailing participation and leadership in school and community activities.
Nonetheless, all the local students are already worthy of acknowledgement for their current achievements.
Hannah M. Lewis
School: Open Door Christian School
Activities and clubs: Band, Academic Quiz Team and National Honor Society
Parents: Lynn and Rick Lewis
Hannah has not cemented her future plans as far as where she will attend college, but the senior at Open Door Christian School isn’t worried.
“I’m a smart child,” she said. “I’ll figure it out soon.”
Lewis is in the top 10 percent of her class and enjoys reading, playing video games and surfing the Internet.
But when she is in school, it’s French class where she excels, she said. French teacher Jill O’Neil encourages students to immerse themselves in the language.
“It’s a relaxed class where we have fun while we’re working,” she said. “I can't say that I’m fluent, but I’m getting there.”
Hannah said she is considering becoming a teacher or translator.
Being named a National Merit semifinalist is an honor, she said.
From: Avon Lake
School: Avon Lake High School
Activities and clubs: Cross country, swim team, track, National Honor Society and Varsity Club. She is active in a youth group at St. Joseph
Parents: Michele and Joe Adams
The Avon Lake High School senior is among the top five in her graduating class, has a cumulative GPA of 4.4 and is currently breezing through a course load that includes four Advanced Placement classes.
“It’s kind of a surprise, but it feels good,” Katherine said. “I took the test because all the juniors did. I wasn’t thinking about the honor. There is a lot of competition for kids to do well on those tests. But I’m sure it will help tremendously when I apply for colleges."
Katherine said she plans to apply to several schools, with hopes of majoring in a medical or science field. Her future career plans include working in medical research.
Amanda L. Allen
School: Home-schooled since preschooled
Activities and clubs: Member of a county home-schoolers program where she is a member of drama club, yearbook and volleyball; is active member of Camden Baptist Church; and takes piano lessons
Parents: Doug and Laura Allen
Amanda Allen may be the only home-schooled student in the county to be named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, but she is happy to be honored among some of the brightest high-schoolers in the state.
Amanda, who hopes to attend Cedarville University in the fall, is a year for her grade level.
And she owes it all to her mother, who read to her and taught her since infancy, enabling her to skip kindergarten and move right to first grade.
“If home-schooled kids apply themselves and take it seriously, they can learn and do just as well as traditional high school kids,” she said.
Amanda is studying, via a satellite program, writing and grammar, piano, pre-calculus, Spanish, graphic design and economics/government.
The graphic design class will come in handy as Amanda pursues a career in the advertising field.
Diane E. Colley
School: Lake Ridge Academy
Activities and clubs: Theater, Mock Trial, Model United Nations and National Honor Society. She is secretary of Junior States of America.
Parents: Susan and William Colley
While being named a National Merit Scholarship program semifinalist is an honor Diane eagerly accepts, the senior at Lake Ridge Academy knows it says nothing about who she is as a person.
“I’m more than just a bunch of test scores,” she said. “I’m a very passionate and fearless person. I’m not afraid to get out there and do what I want. I wasn’t thinking about National Merit at the time. I just wanted to take the test.”
And, what she wants right now is to attend Brown University and major in mathematics with hopes of becoming a math professor. The subject that causes many others to cringe is Diane’s passion.
“It’s a very creative, beautiful and abstract art,” she said. “I see mathematicians doing with concepts what poets do with words. That’s what I want to share with other students.”When Diane is not wowing people with her mathematics prowess, she enjoys volunteering as a gaming official and helps run tournaments for Magic: The Gathering, a card game. She judges as well as teaches other judges in tournaments across the country. Diane is the second-youngest judge in her rank.
School: Lake Ridge Academy
Activities and clubs: President of Student Council, editor of the school newspaper and member of the varsity volleyball team, Mock Trial team, Model United Nations, Junior Engineering and Technical Society and National Honor Society
Parents: Bablu and Basabi Ratnaparkhi
After interning the last two summers at the Cleveland Clinic, Rubina Ratnaparkhi is hoping to base her future in biomedical engineering at Brown University.
The senior at Lake Ridge Academy is an average high school student in many regards, but she is also very interested in neuroscience, cognitive language skills and learning how the human brain processes language. She is studying Spanish and Italian with and hopes to add more languages to her resume.
But first, Rubina said she is basking in the honor of her recent accomplishment, something she didn’t expect when she took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in her junior year.
“I feel really honored to be included in what I know is a group of some of the most outstanding high school students from across the country,” she said.
The two other local students, Joshua A. Castro White of Amherst Steele High School and Anthony L. Bartolotta of Avon Lake High School, could not be reached.