Saline's National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists, Commended Scholars Step Forward for Recognition

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 11/14/2018 - 00:13
Group Photo - Ethan Shell (Commended Scholar), Jennifer Kosek (National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist), Connor Terech (CS), Sabrina Stock (CS) , Jevin Nishioka (CS), Annika Olsen (CS), Erika Chatell (NMS-SF), Nikolai Tolmoff (NMS-SF), Leah Abdallah (NMS-SF), Lia Ahmed-Zaid (NMS-SF), Ruth Sullivan (NMS-SF), Ailen Lao (NMS-SF) (Not Pictured) Commended Scholars: Matthew Eitzman, Alexa Stern, Ryan Sutherland, Joshua Willwerth and National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists: Jadon Dester, Cameron Tressler, Mrinalini Iyer,

Of the more than 100 Washtenaw County students who were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program for the class of 2019, most of the 20 Saline students who were counted among them when the recipients announcement was made last September stood up to be recognized this week.

Saline High School Principal David Raft beamed with pride as he read the names of his most distinguished scholars among the current senior class that has learned and grown under the roof that he is responsible for at 1300 Campus Parkway.

"We're recognizing tonight 20 students who are Commended Scholars and some are National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists," Raft said. "Approximately 1.5 million high school students take the PSAT each year (across the country) and just 15,000 of them are Commended Scholars and 16,000 are National Merit (Scholarship) Semi-Finalists."

The numbers speak for themselves.  That's just 1 percent of all PSAT test-takers. 

"We have 20 students here who are being recognized and that says a lot about us," Raft said.

The students took their PSAT in mid-October of their junior year of high school with the scores becoming available the following December. It wasn't until earlier this year that the students were informed of their recognition, and of those honored the finalists will not be designated as finalists with an even greater chance of winning a $2,500 scholarship until the beginning of next year at the latest.

Raft highlighted his honored students' participation in clubs, sports, and other activities crediting them not just for their competitive academic prowess, but their distinguished presence in various extra-curriculars.

"We have an outstanding representation, not only are they very academically successful, they're also leaders in a lot of different aspects of their school and their community," Raft said, adding that among those honored are captains of athletic teams, leaders on Student Council, as well as valuable members of groups like Science Olympiad, the Saline schools robotics team, and many quiz bowl to name a few.

Some of the eight students who couldn't make it were preparing for robotics competition during the board meeting.

The range of appreciation for the district ran the gamut.

Commended Scholar Sabrina Stock said that she thrived in the positive atmosphere at Saline Area Schools. 

"I think my favorite part about Saline is how open everyone is in terms of listening to kids ... I really appreciate how open the adults are at this school whether it's the teachers, the administration, or the school board. They treat us as respectful adults and not just as students. So thank you for that," Stock said.

Annika Olsen, also a Commended Scholar, said that she appreciated the number and breadth of opportunities available to her and the rest of the student body, with specific praise for the general coaching staff.

"I've done a bunch of sports through Saline and the coaches I've had here have been the most supportive," Olsen said.

Lia Ahmed-Zaid, National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist and Science Olympiad team member, specified the latter of those two descriptors she's earned for much of her success.

"(Science Olympiad) has really been just a positive experience for me ... I've grown so much as a person because of it and I've met some of my lifelong friends there. If I could go back in time, I'd do it all over again," she said.

Commended Scholar Jevin Nishioka put things in perspective with his comment.

"It's not a coincidence that you have 20 people here that are either Commended Scholars or Semi-Finalists due to the great preparation we had for taking these tests, because of all of the great administrators and teachers we've had throughout the years," Nishioka said. "Thank you for that."

Sean Dalton's picture
Sean Dalton
Sean Dalton is a veteran of the Washtenaw County journalism scene. He co-founded WeLoveDexter.com and WeLoveAnnArbor.com and also worked for Heritage Newspapers.