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NSA student wins high honor

Diana Heriford has a big red bow to put atop her high school career.

Heriford, a senior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, was awarded a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship, underwritten by Textron Charitable Trust, and will join the prestigious ranks of high school students who are National Merit scholarship recipients.

“I was definitely excited when I found out,” Heriford said. “It’s not something to be upset about. I was surprised. It was pretty unexpected. I knew I was a candidate, but it wasn’t on my mind. It’ll certainly help out with as many years of school I have ahead of me.”

Of the 1.5 million students who entered the 55th annual National Merit Scholarship program, and the 8,200 merit finalists, Heriford is one of only 2,500 students chosen to receive a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship.

Heriford will use the scholarship in her academic pursuit to become an English professor, which will begin by studying English at the University of Virginia next year.

The profession will allow her to do a little of everything she loves.

“I always loved English, reading and the classics,” she said. “Being a professor would allow me to maintain a lifestyle I’d love and get to share what I love with others. I’d get to read, study and write — my favorite things.”

For Heriford, her desire to dabble in a bit of everything stemmed from childhood.

“I wanted to be a hairdresser on Monday, a ballerina on Tuesday, an artist on Wednesday, a singer on Thursday and an actress on Friday,” Heriford said. “I told people I wanted to be something different for every day of the week. I definitely have always wanted that variation.”

Since it was founded, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has awarded more than $1.3 billion through more than 335,000 scholarships to students and recognized more than three million students for their academic achievements across America.

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. The top third of the highest-scoring students are selected as semi-finalists.

Information from test scores, extra-curricular activities and a student’s community activity and school leadership essay are factors in choosing the top 15,000 students as finalists. From the finalists, 8,200 students are selected to receive scholarships.

For all aspiring scholarship applicants, Heriford said, a key to securing the scholarship is paying attention to your Preliminary-SAT scores.

“It’s not emphasized enough,” Heriford said. “A lot of your score is based on your PSAT. I didn’t realize how important it was and got pretty lucky that I got a good score.”