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6 Gatton Academy seniors named National Merit Finalists

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Six Gatton Academy seniors learned Wednesday (Feb. 17) they were selected as National Merit Finalists.

Since The Gatton Academy’s inception in 2007, 79 students have been named National Merit Semifinalists. Fifty-eight Gatton Academy seniors took the PSAT®, meaning 10.3 percent of the students made the National Merit Finalist level.

The 2015-2016 National Merit Finalists from The Gatton Academy are:

  • Niven Achenjang, son of Fidelis and Lucia Achenjang, from Knox Central High School.
  • Linyue “Joy” Fan, daughter of Lei Chen and Xingang Fan, from South Warren High School.
  • Lucas Knight, son of Paul and Pamela Knight, from Apollo High School.
  • Kristen Pedersen, daughter of Paul and Anne Pedersen, from Barbourville High School.
  • Leslie Pike, daughter of Les and Angela Pike, from LaRue County High School.
  • Emma Saarinen, daughter of Timothy and Carolyn Saarinen, from Shelby County High School.

To become a Finalist, a Semifinalist had to have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the PSAT®. From the group of more than 15,000 Finalists, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation will select approximately 7,400 Merit Scholarship recipients between April and July.

Approximately 1.5 million juniors entered the 2015-2016 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2014 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which serves as the initial screen of program entrants. From this list comes the nationwide pool of Semifinalists, representing approximately 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, and includes the highest scoring entrants in each state.

“Gatton Academy students excel in many ways. It is exciting to have these students honored by the National Merit Scholarship Program for their academic abilities,” said Director of The Gatton Academy Dr. Lynette Breedlove. “We share in this excitement with their home school districts. It is also exciting to see these students give of themselves as they support their peers and our community.”

Since students take the qualifying PSAT® exam in October of their junior year of high school, much of their preparation stems from learning opportunities during their freshman and sophomore years of high school. The Gatton Academy builds on those experiences to provide students with a robust application and preparation for the SAT, a critical component in becoming a finalist.

For information about The Gatton Academy, visit www.wku.edu/academy or call (270) 745-2971.

About the National Merit Scholarship Program: Established in 1955, National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance. NMSC is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and contributions to NMSC are tax deductible by the donor. NMSC conducts the National Merit® Scholarship Program and the National Achievement® Scholarship Program–annual competitions for recognition and college undergraduate scholarships. Since its founding, NMSC has recognized 3 million students and provided over 387,000 scholarships worth more than $1.5 billion. The honors awarded by NMSC to exceptionally able students are viewed as definitive marks of excellence. Recipients of Merit Scholarship® awards, Achievement Scholarship® awards, and corporate-sponsored Special Scholarships have increased the nation’s respect for intellectual accomplishments and have contributed significantly to its talent pool of future leaders.

About The Gatton Academy: Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential high school for gifted and talented junior and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematical careers. The Gatton Academy was named the number one public high school in the United States by The Daily Beast for three consecutive years – 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Contact: Zack Ryle, (270) 745-2971

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