National Merit

Four seniors from Athens City Schools, Caroline Chesnut and Connor Higgins of Athens High and Jake Elliott and Genevieve O'Shea from Athens Renaissance, have been named National Merit Scholarship Program finalists.

Four Athens seniors were named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program back in September. Fast forward to this month, and all four students have made the cut as finalists in the program.

Caroline Chesnut and Connor Higgins from Athens High join Jake Elliott and Genevieve O'Shea from Athens Renaissance as ACS' National Merit finalists and four from among 15,000 chosen nationwide.

“We are so excited that all four semifinalists were named National Merit finalists,” said Superintendent Beth Patton. “They are dedicated to educational excellence, and most importantly, they are well-rounded young adults. We are very proud of this accomplishment.”

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, 1.5 million juniors nationwide entered the 2021 program by virtue of taking the PSAT, which is used to screen entrants. From there, 16,000 semifinalists were named.

To be considered for the finalist cut, seniors must complete an application, have a “consistently high” academic record, submit a written essay and be endorsed and recommended by an official from their school, according to NMSC.

“All winners of Merit Scholarship awards are chosen from the finalist group based on their abilities, skills and accomplishments — without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference,” the NMSC website reads.

The group said it also evaluates such items as school curriculum and grading systems and information about each student's activities and leadership.

From March to June NMSC will notify around 7,600 finalists on whether or not they have been selected to receive a national merit scholarship. Funds given out will encompass more than $30 million.

“Winners are selected by a committee of college admission officers and high school counselors without consideration of family financial circumstances, college choice or major and career plans,” according to the NMSC website.

Laura Smith, the guidance counselor for juniors and seniors at Athens High, told The News Courier she was “thrilled” when Chesnut and Higgins were named semifinalists in September. Smith said the two have had a friendly academic competition since elementary school.

ARS Principal Nelson Brown told The News Courier on Tuesday that he is “very excited” for both Jake and Genevieve.

“They are both well-deserving of this achievement, and all of us at ARS are proud of their accomplishments,” he said.

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