EBR Students Top State with National Merit Semi-Finalists

EBR Students Top State with National Merit Semi-Finalists

POSTED: Thursday, September 17, 2009 - 7:04am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:58pm

Baton Rouge, La. – On the heels of yesterday’s great news about Sherwood Middle Academic Magnet School obtaining Blue Ribbon status, East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS) is back in the national limelight again.

The cream of the crop. The best of the best. Students with high academic achievement. We have it all here in EBRPSS, where the district led the state in semifinalists for the 55th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. EBRPSS has the most semifinalists, 18 students from two high schools (Baton Rouge Magnet and McKinley high schools), of any public school district in the state of Louisiana. Finalists will be announced in spring 2010.

Nationally, about 16,000 students were named semifinalists and will continue to compete for about 8,200 National Merit Scholarships to pay for college. All told, the scholarships are worth $36 million. Finalists will be announced in spring 2010.

Among the school district’s semifinalists is Jesse Tan, who made a perfect score of 36 on last year’s American College Testing (ACT) exam. In addition, Neal Wu won 10th place at the 20th International Olympiad in Informatics as a member of the USA Computing Olympiad team last year. Last year, his grade point average was about 4.7. At McKinley High School, semifinalist Devika Balachandran was a student state winner of the 2008 Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement and scored a 35 on her ACT exam. The school’s other semifinalist, Lucas Moulder, is known as a “brilliant” student who took only 20 minutes to take the Reading portion of the ACT and missed only two questions.

National Merit semifinalists from EBRPSS are:
Christopher G. Cochran
Trey M. Duplantis
Zakyia Y. Goins-McCants
Darren A. Jindal
Zhanxin L. Li
Shagun Mathur
Emily E. Maverick
Leyla Mocan
Xinyuan Ning
Dohyun Park
Rajas M. Pradhan
Marie A. Swarzenski
Jesse K. Tan
Stephen Q. Wang
Neal C. Wu
Can Zhang

Devika Balachandran
Lucas Moulder

To be considered as a finalist, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship and earn the title of Merit Scholar.

More than 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2010 National Merit Program by taking the 2008 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, which represents less than 1 percent of US high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

To become a finalist, a semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the high school principal and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. The semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes the student’s self-descriptive essay and information about the semifinalist’s participation and leadership in school and community activities.