Fayetteville High School leads state in National Merit semifinalists

FILE PHOTO The Fayetteville Public Schools McClinton Administration Building.

Fayetteville High School led the state with 19 students qualifying as semifinalists in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program.

The names of about 16,000 semifinalists from across the country were released Tuesday by the National Merit Scholarship Corp. Benton and Washington counties accounted for 52 of Arkansas' 132 semifinalists, nearly 40 percent of the state's total and two more than the region had last year.

National Merit semifinalists

Arkansas Arts Academy

Noah B. Hamby

Bentonville High School

Lilian S. Agnacian

Solomon A. Berry

Malia S. Camacho

Samuel I. Ellgass

Trevor R. Fogleman

Arjun Krishna

Megan Y. Sattler

Mikayla D. Shefchik

Khushi S. Taori

Maddox A. Townsend

Bentonville West High School

Nayan R. Paul

Fayetteville High School

Chloe A. Bowen

Josephine F. Crouch

Cora L. Ferguson

Shirshak Gautam

James F. Hall

Carson R. Haller

Jackson P. Heck

Albert Y. Ko

Paul S. Lefforge

Austin Q. Liu

Foster T. Matlock

Kexin Meng

Ethan M. Peters

Kyrie Potter

Sheil D. Sharma

Isaac Smith

Spencer L. Walker

Brendan Wolf

Grayson W. Young

Haas Hall Academy Bentonville

Georgina L. Woodworth

Haas Hall Academy Fayetteville

Seylor N. Cluck

Nicholas C. Collyge

Caroline R. Dastugue

Garrett B. Grisso

Josephine M. Matalone

Hamaad W. Mehal

Mollie R. Nichols

Carson D. Riggs

Katherine N. Upchurch

Home school

Katrianna E. Sarkar (Bentonville)

Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy

Grant A. Reader

Providence Classical Christian Academy

Eli C. Jackson

Rogers High School

Alisha A. Chatlani

Nathan P. Skinner

Rogers Heritage High School

Adam R. Siwiec

Rogers New Technology High School

Wren Priest

Siloam Springs High School

Monia N. Maxwell

Springdale Har-Ber High School

Jackson T. Black

Austin T. Todd

Sojas S. Wagle

Source: National Merit Scholarship Corp

Thirteen high schools in Northwest Arkansas had at least one semifinalist this year. In addition, Katrianna Sarker of Bentonville was the only home-schooled student from Arkansas named a semifinalist.

More than 1.6 million juniors in about 22,000 high schools entered the 2019 program by taking the Preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, according to a news release from the corporation.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors, according to the release.

To become a finalist, the semifinalist must provide information on academic record, participation in school and community activities and more. About 15,000 of the 16,000 semifinalists are expected to advance to the finalist level, according to the release. Finalists will be notified in February. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from the finalist group.

Fayetteville High's 19 semifinalists is the most it's had since 2011, when it had 22. The entire senior class has 546 students.

Jay Dostal served as a high school principal in Kearney, Neb., before accepting the Fayetteville High principal's job this year. Dostal said he couldn't recall seeing so many semifinalists at a school.

"I think that's a testament to the great intelligence of these young people," Dostal said. "I attribute it to fantastic teachers and wonderful parental support at home. It's a really cool thing to have and very satisfying to see these kids excel at the level they are."

The school will "hold this up as a shining example of what kids can do if given the support and resources to be successful in school," he said.

Bentonville High School had the second-most semifinalists in the state this year with 10. Bentonville's West High School had one.

Haas Hall Academy had nine semifinalists at its Fayetteville campus, despite having an enrollment of only 478 students in grades seven through 12 to start this school year. Haas Hall Fayetteville produced nine semifinalists last year as well.

Rogers New Technology High School, which opened in 2013, is celebrating its first National Merit semifinalist this year. Wren Priest is a senior who's attended the charter school since her freshman year, according to Cindy Caudle, a school counselor.

"We're excited about that," Caudle said. "We have made an effort to build a culture where our learners understand the benefits a National Merit designation could mean to them and how that could propel them into that transition into college. We think we're as competitive academically as other schools around Northwest Arkansas. It just takes a little time to develop that culture."

The school plans to recognize Priest's accomplishment during an assembly Friday, Caudle said.

Also recording its first National Merit semifinalist this year is Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy, a charter school that opened in 2013 in Bentonville. Arkansas Arts Academy, a charter school in Rogers, has its first semifinalist since 2013, when the school was called Benton County School of the Arts.

Sojas Wagle, a Springdale Har-Ber High School senior, continued to add to his already impressive academic resume with the National Merit semifinalist designation this year.

Wagle earned the top composite score possible on the ACT when he took it as a sophomore. He won the 2017 USA Brain Bee Championship at the University of Maryland, finished third in the 2015 National Geographic Bee, and won $250,000 on the television show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

NW News on 09/13/2018