Thursday, September 25, 1997

Students recognized for scores: Area high schoolers in the National Merit program could receive money for college

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Five Rock Bridge High School seniors have been honored in the 1998 National Merit scholarship program. One is a National Merit semifinalist, and four are commended students.

Hickman High School is waiting for its list of National Achievement Scholars before releasing a list of this year's student achievers.

Marina Somers is Rock Bridge's only semifinalist, one of 15,000 nationwide. About half will be chosen as National Merit scholars and awarded money toward college tuition.

"I was pretty surprised," Somers said. "I guess I must have eaten a good breakfast the day of the test."

Seniors Gil Alexander, Anne Hillman, Corey Webel and Aaron Wright will receive letters of commendation from the school and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation at the school's homecoming assembly Friday.

Last year, Rock Bridge had four semifinalists and five commended students, said Principal Jim King.

"Counselors encourage students about testing programs," he said. King also said the school's guidance office runs in-house test preparation programs.

"It's important for students who are serious to take it seriously," King said. Nationwide, 35,000 students will be honored this year as commended students. Although they are not eligible for National Merit scholarships awarded next spring, these local students are in the top 5 percent of more than a million students who entered the 1998 Merit Program by taking the 1996 Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Outgoing senior Somers is preparing to take the SAT again in November. She uses commercially available practice books.

She said she hopes to attend MU, Rice University, the College of William and Mary, Yale University, Wake Forest University or the University of Richmond. Somers, co-editor of The Rock, Rock Bridge's student newspaper, might major in journalism.

However, she is applying for a Rotary Club youth exchange that would permit her to live in Germany for a year. She has studied German for six years. "It's kind of scary, but it will be a good experience," Somers said. Webel, Wright and Alexander said they are happy with their test results. Alexander and Webel said they have older brothers who were National Merit finalists but are proud to be commended students.

Colleges and universities are interested, too.

"You get sent a lot of mail," Alexander laughed. Wright and Webel also are getting promotional mail from numerous colleges.

Alexander, who said he is ready to wander a bit farther from home, plans to study music in college. He said he hopes to attend Northwestern University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor or Rice University.

Wright decided he wants to be a college professor, though he hasn't decided in which area he would like to teach. He intends to go to MU, Washington University, Grinnell College or Carleton College.

Webel has a large number of interests, including academics, sports and music. He will apply to MU, Truman State University and Wheaton College, though he doesn't know what he'll study.