Keller Citizen

Seven Northwest ISD students exercise brain power as National Merit semifinalists

Seven students in the Northwest school district are 2019 National Merit Semifinalists. From left, Oliver Ponder, Northwest High School; Kaly Phan, Northwest; Chet Graswich, Byron Nelson High School; Maddie Otterson, Byron Nelson; Emma Cooley, Byron Nelson; Rebecca Croucher, Byron Nelson; and Aiden Devlin, Northwest.
Seven students in the Northwest school district are 2019 National Merit Semifinalists. From left, Oliver Ponder, Northwest High School; Kaly Phan, Northwest; Chet Graswich, Byron Nelson High School; Maddie Otterson, Byron Nelson; Emma Cooley, Byron Nelson; Rebecca Croucher, Byron Nelson; and Aiden Devlin, Northwest. Courtesy

Seven students from the Northwest Independent School District are among the smartest in the nation based on their PSAT scores.

The National Merit Scholarship Program has named seven Northwest ISD students — four from Byron Nelson High School and three from Northwest High School — as National Merit semifinalists. The honor goes to students who scored among the top 1% in the United States on their PSAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

From Byron Nelson, Emma Cooley, Rebecca Croucher, Chet Graswich and Maddie Otterson each earned National Merit Semifinalist distinction, as did Northwest’s Aiden Devlin, Kaly Phan and Oliver Ponder.

This is the seventh consecutive year at least one Byron Nelson student has earned the distinction.

The program is considered one of the most rigorous in the nation and annually honors 16,000 students with the best test scores out of about 1.6 million high school students who take one of the qualifying tests during their junior year.

“We’re always thrilled when students go above and beyond academically, and having a big group receiving National Merit Semifinalist distinction shows that we have many students who are high-achievers,” Northwest ISD Executive Director of Secondary Education Dr. Logan Farris said. “They all represent their schools with excellence, and they are fantastic role models for fellow students. We are tremendously proud of them.”

Each of the students said they are still researching colleges and submitting applications, applying to some of the top-ranked universities in the nation.

Among their career goals, Cooley plans to study engineering, Croucher said she plans to major in archaeology and German, Graswich wants to study biochemistry, and Otterson said she plans to major in neuroscience. Devlin plans to study aerospace engineering, Ponder plans to study computer science, and Phan wants to enter a broadcast journalism program in college.

The National Merit Scholarship program will next determine which students will receive the distinction of finalist based on the academic performance throughout the entirety of their high school careers, as well as the difficulty of courses taken and SAT scores. It will choose winners from the pool of finalists based on all previous criteria as well as each finalist’s essay and his or her involvement in activities and leadership roles.

Finalists will be notified in February of their status, with winners from that pool informed of their $2,500 scholarships from March to June.

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