The National Merit semifinalists for 2021 from Troy High School.

The National Merit semifinalists for 2021 from Troy High School.

Photos provided by Patrice Rowbal

Record number of Troy students named National Merit semifinalists

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published October 29, 2021


TROY — The Troy School District is celebrating a record 74 high school students being named National Merit semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

The title is earned by placing in the top 1% of students who take the PSAT test. More than 1.5 million high school juniors in about 21,000 high schools take the PSAT each year.

“The district has consistently had the most students achieving this status in the state,” said Troy Athens Principal Lara Dixon. “The National Merit status is meant to take students who perform well on the PSAT test and identify top thinkers. In Troy, we have had a really wonderful combination of great students, great teachers and great families who raise children on the right things, like working hard.”

The number of qualifying students attending Troy high schools is up from 52 last year.

“In order to achieve this status, they have to do exceptionally well on their PSAT, which they take in their junior year,” said Jessie Allgeier, the lead counselor at Troy High School. “Our district provides PSAT tests for students starting in the eighth grade. These are students who have been preparing for this for a long time. It is an amazing status to achieve. We always provide test prep and similar programs to help them, but this is something they mainly earn on their own dedication and discipline.”

In addition to the dedication of the students, many educators in the district credit their educational methods to the consistently high number of students achieving this benchmark.

“In my opinion, this is a result of our educational methods employed from kindergarten to high school,” explained Ryan Brinks, the principal of International Academy East. “The district has placed an emphasis on high quality learning and deep learning on every building in the district. This means inquiry-based learning where students are asking questions and have the opportunities to explore topics deeply and can engage in the community so they can see real life examples of what they are learning. This lets them explore issues from multiple perspectives.”

“In addition to having a community of like-minded people who value deep learning and education,” Dixon added. “We believe in collective group-based learning that is arduous and that is varied so that students have a wide array of skills and abilities when they graduate. We support this all with great teachers who support this type of learning.”

By becoming a semifinalist, students qualify for additional scholarship opportunities and stand out more in the college admissions process. It also allows them to attempt to make finalist status, which will amplify their scholarship and admissions prospects even more.

“They continue the process after this and can now qualify to be finalists,” said Brinks. “They need to now submit their SAT scores and an essay. Their counselor has to write them a letter of recommendation, and if selected, they can be selected as a finalist, which gives them a sort of preferred status for a lot of college admissions. A lot of universities have specific scholarships that are available to finalists and semifinalists.”

“It definitely puts them in a different category when they apply for colleges,” remarked Allgeier. “We write their necessary letters of recommendation. We celebrate them with a banquet, and we make sure they know how to apply for finalist status.”

A district banquet will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Troy High School to recognize the students’ achievement.

“We are so proud of these kids because they have achieved the top level of rigor, but they are also exceptional individuals,” Dixon said. “Every year, we celebrate them at a banquet and we read something unique about each of them. You hear a lot of great stories that show how incredible and vibrant they are.”

The administrators and educators of the district voiced their pride in their students and congratulated them on this milestone.

“Congratulations to our students,” remarked Brinks. “It’s well deserved, and they work diligently and are committed to their studies. They are exemplary members of the Troy community and of their school communities. They are good representatives of their schools.”