SH officials recognize National Merit semifinalist

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Southern Hancock School Board member Matt Ackerman (left), New Palestine High School senior Alyssa Kauchak, and NPHS Principal Jim Voelz.

HANCOCK COUNTY — One of the three county residents who have been named as a National Merit semifinalist was honored during a recent school board meeting by officials in the Community School Corp. of Southern Hancock County.

New Palestine High School senior Alyssa Kauchak was given special recognition during the most recent board meeting in December with an official letter from the board recognizing her accomplishments. Kauchak, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2023 along with two students from Greenfield-Central High School, Noah S. Day and Mallory G. Schnecker, were all informed earlier this year they had qualified as National Merit semifinalist.

Greenfield-Central High School principal Jason Carey noted they are proud of the two G-C students who have worked hard to earn the honor. The district has showcased the two students via social media recognizing them for their hard work.

For Kauchak, who has preliminary plans to study environmental engineering at Purdue University next year, she was not expecting to be a semifinalist and was honored when she got the news.

“I feel like all the hard work has paid off,” Kauchak said. “I’ve been working since my freshman year taking AP classes, and my mom (Maria Kauchak) has really been pushing and motivating me so I’m glad I stuck with it, taking more rigorous classes.”

Students qualified through their PSAT scores and will now be judged on their application, SAT and ACT scores as well as an essay, a letter of recommendation and extra activities to determine who becomes a National Merit finalist which will be announced in the spring.

Schnecker, who is currently ranked 12th in the G-CHS class of 2023, plans to study English next year in college. She noted being recognized as a National Merit Semifinalist was special.

“It’s nice to know that my hard work in the classroom has paid off and that it could earn me scholarships for college,” she said.

Approximately 16,000 semifinalists were chosen from the highest scores in each state on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test for the 68th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. They represent less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors.

The students now have the opportunity to compete to advance to become finalists in the competition. The academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered this coming spring.

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 95 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and approximately half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.

The National Merit Scholarship Program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The program does not measure the quality or effectiveness of education within a school, system, or state.

The NMSC is a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance. It was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 340 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

For Kauchak, who also helps tutor students at New Palestine Intermediate School, her real passion is art. She’s taken as many art classes as possible and also enjoys baking in her spare time.

“Completely separate from academics, I love baking macaroons for my friends,” she said with a laugh. “I hope I do get to be a finalist because there is a small scholarship that comes with it that I can use for my schooling.”