3 from NSA are Merit finalists

Published 11:18 pm Thursday, February 18, 2010

Three Nansemond-Suffolk Academy students have joined an elite class of students by being named National Merit Finalists.

Representing the top one percent of the 1.5 million students who entered the 55th Annual National Merit Scholarship program, Diana Heriford, David Leber and Andrea Beale recently were named finalists in the program.

“These students are very deserving of this incredible academic achievement,” NSA Headmaster Brenda Kincaid stated in a press release announcing the achievement. “This obviously speaks volumes about our students, our community, our program and in particular, our faculty. We are very proud of this exceptional accomplishment by these outstanding students.”

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No other finalists or semi-finalists were reported from Suffolk.

“Since its founding, NMSC has recognized 3 million students and provided over 335,000 scholarships worth more than $1.3 billion,” according to the National Merit Scholarship Web site. “The honors awarded by NMSC to exceptionally able students are viewed as definitive marks of excellence.”

Every year, students who take the Preliminary SAT, usually completed in a student’s junior year, have the opportunity to enroll in the scholarship program.

Of this past year’s 1.5 million applicants, the top 50,000 scoring students were chosen for recognition. Scores are based on critical reading, mathematics and writing skills. The top third of students are chosen as semi-finalists in September based on their performance.

To be one of the 15,000 students to advance as a finalist, the student must score well on the SAT and submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes a self-descriptive essay and information about participation in school leadership and community activities.

“I’ve been preparing for the SATs since 7th or 8th grade,” Heriford said.

The students’ hard work and dedication have earned them the accomplishments of being honored as finalists. Should they continue as award recipients, they will be among the top 8,200 high school students in America and receive a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship or scholarships supported by corporations or colleges.

“I feel like I’ve already achieved so much just as being a finalist,” Leber said. “Getting an award would just be a bonus. The money is just money. My parents will disagree on that. But the biggest thing is the achievement of getting this far.”