The path to walking across the high school stage to receive their diplomas is as diverse as the individuals and colleges four locoal National Merit Scholarship winners will attend.
But all four winners would encourage students coming up through high school to take the test and try for the scholarship. This year’s local winners include Green High School graduates Lauren Goldie and Courtney Davis, Lake graduate David Klopfer and Akron Hoban graduate Carson Keenan. On Monday, it was announced that Green's Arman Aboutorabi and Jackson's Elias Abboud had also been awarded National Merit Scholarships.
Courtney Davis will be returning to her roots to attend college. Davis, who was born in Louisiana and lived through Hurricane Katrina, will be attending Louisiana State University (LSU) to study biology and animal science, with one day becoming a veterinarian.
Davis explained how she uniquely found out she had reach the semifinal round and moved onto to become a finalist.
"We were supposed to hear back in August to see if we had qualified to be a semifinalist," said Davis, the daughter of Les and Paula. Davis also has a sibling, Jake, who is a sophomore at Green. "I didn’t hear anything in August. I knew I had a high PSAT score, so I knew I would be in the running. I look online and then in September I found out from an article in the Akron Beacon Journal that I had made it to the semifinals, so I contacted Green but they hadn’t heard anything. Sometime in October, three days before essays and the next round of paperwork needed to be completed, Green received notification of who qualified. The information had been sent to the wrong school. So Green let us take some half days off school if need be to complete the online essay."
And then Davis described her reaction at being a finalist and winner.
"I was excited," said Davis, who has been in theater since the sixth grade and performed in plays at Green. "This is not a joke or easy application so I was excited. Once I was a finalist, I knew I would win the scholarship. If you list LSU as your first choice of college, LSU has a guarantee you will get a scholarship."
After Hurricane Katrina, Davis moved to Texas and then came to Ohio when her dad was transferred for work.
"I like the weather better here," said Davis, who graduated with a 4.1 GPA. "The snow is an inconvenience but you can get out and not break a sweat. But there is more to do in Texas. As far as education, there is more standardize testing in Texas than Ohio. Ohio teachers have more latitude in the curriculum they teach. I had great teachers at Green and in Texas."
Goldie, who also attended Green, will be going to school at Miami University. Goldie explained the process for her to reach success with this award.
"In order to qualify to be a National Merit semifinalist, you have to take the PSAT," said Goldie, the daughter of Kim and Robert. Goldie has a sibling, Alexandria. "I knew if I could do well on this test, I would have a chance at a scholarship. So I buckled down and study for the test."
Studying paid off for Goldie as she advanced from being a semifinalist to a finalist and eventual winner.
"I was super stoked," said Goldie, who will study computer science at Miami, "when I got the letter I was a finalist. I was really excited when I found out I won."
Goldie’s $2,000 scholarship is renewable each of the four years she is at Miami.
"I always feel pressure when I take tests," said Goldie, who graduate with a 4.5 GPA and was a member of the Academic Challenge team, Key Club, enjoys going on walks and reading fantasy and science fiction books. "I think taking the OAAs, then OATs were okay, but that type of testing does not prepare you for the ACT or SAT. The ACT or SAT is a more serious test. But the subjects we had in school and the teachers prepared me."
Goldie said her parents were totally excited and proud of her for this accomplishment.
Keenan’s high school experience was slightly different then the other area winners. Keenan, of Uniontown, attended Akron Hoban High School, which is a private school. Keenan explained how Hoban prepared him for this test.
"We are little different at Hoban," said Keenan, the son of Michele and David. He has a younger sibling as well, Reagan. "I was in honors classes in ninth and tenth grade. I would take the prep tests for this in ninth and tenth grade. In 11th grade, all honors student took the PSAT."
Keenan said he found out in March that he won the scholarship.
"I received a letter in March that said I was a finalist," said Keenan, who will study computer science at the University of Alabama. "I knew which schools I was looking at and which ones offered the scholarship, so I knew my chances were pretty good. I was ecstatic and relieved. I will not have a lot of debt after college."
Attending a private school, many people are under the assumption that students are not tested as much. But Keenan offered insight there as well.
"I was the last class that is taking the OGT," said Keenan, who was on the bowling team for four years, a member of Academic Challenge, plays piano and the steel drums and has arranged two songs. "The OGT was simple. Not sure if the testing helps, but I am a good test taker. The Hoban teachers prepared me well. They are strong in English and math was covered at a high level."
Keenan also explained why he is headed to Alabama for college.
"I liked OSU and the University of Alabama," said Keenan. But of the schools I really liked, only Alabama, Cincinnati and Oklahoma offered the National Merit Scholarship. I told Ohio State I won and they did not seem to care. With Alabama, I like the campus and the football. It was cheaper for me to go out of state."
Keenan nearly bowled a perfect game this season. He was also captain of the team.
Klopfer, who graduated from Lake, will be attending Baylor University in Texas. He will be close to his maternal grandparents. He explained how that came to be his college of choice.
"It was a combination of visiting my grandpa," said Klopfer, the son of Shane and Teresa. He has two older brothers, Mike and Paul. "My mom said we should go look at the college. It is a great institution. I liked what I saw. They offered more with merit scholarships and have a great pre-med program. It will be a good combination since my mom is moving to Texas to take care of her parents. She will be three hours away but it will be a good chance for me to have independence."
Klopfer explained how he found out he was a finalist.
"I was going along to a track meet," said Klopfer, who graduated with a 4.5 GPA and was a member of the swim and track teams at Lake along with the Academic Challenge team. He also enjoys playing ping pong, Ultimate Frisbee and is running a marathon Saturday in Indianapolis. "I received a notification from Mr. Harold, my principal. I was together with my best friend. I was beaming. To share the news with my friend Connor was amazing."
Klopfer said he did not expect to keep advancing. He said as the group was getting smaller, the process was more about fine tuning. In the end, he was pleasantly surprised.
"I did not think all of the state testing we do prepares us to take this type of test," said Klopfer. "I was prepared by Lake’s rigorous curriculum. I can’t thank Lake High School enough. Our staff, the individual teachers, care beyond the classroom. They care about the students outside the classroom. I don’t think that caring is found anywhere else. The credit goes to the administration. I definite appreciate what they did and will take this to a high learning institution.
"I would definitely encourage students to take the test," said Klopfer. "On the surface, it may not seem big. Just a $2,000 scholarship. But Baylor offers more in the end. Not as many people take it serious."