Six Lake County students have been named semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. One semifinalist is from East Ridge High School, two are from Eustis High School, and three are from Montverde Academy.
The six semifinalists are among 16,000 recently announced nationwide. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.
“We are excited to have students from our district included among these outstanding scholars,” says Diane Kornegay, Lake County Schools Superintendent. “I’m proud to see the hard work and commitment of our students recognized at the national level. We will continue to support and encourage all of our students as they work toward their goals and exceed our highest expectations.”
“We are extremely proud and thrilled for our students on being selected as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program,” says Dr. Kasey C. Kesselring, Montverde Academy Head of School. “Kendyl, Jathin and Avery are hard-working, driven students who excel at all they do because of their focus, dedication and preparation for the next step in their educational endeavors. They have become leaders who will continue to lead in college and on into their chosen careers.”
Lake County’s National Merit Semifinalists are:
Kendyl Cardwell, Montverde Academy: She is a member of Montverde Academy’s Distinguished Scholars program, the Head of School’s Leadership Institute (HLI) as a representative on the Arts and Athletics Leadership Committee and the Math Club, and runs on MVA’s state-ranked, nationally recognized varsity cross country team. Kendyl also founded MVA’s Newspaper Club and has published articles in the South Lake Tablet, a Clermont-based online news source.
Jackson Cheplick, East Ridge High School: He ranks in the top 3.5 percent of his class, participates in Advanced Placement courses whenever offered, and has even taken additional AP courses through virtual school. He participates in the Lake County Rowing Association, HiQ, Mathlympics, and serves as the VP of Competition for DECA.
Jathin Gadiparthi, Montverde Academy: He is a four-year member of MVA’s Robotics team, who excels at the building portion of the competitions. Jathin is also a member of the Math Club and pursuing a Study Area Concentration specialized diploma in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
Audrey Lord, Eustis High School: She is a member of the Eustis High School Golden Panther Band program and has earned many Superior ratings at both district and state level music performance assessments. She has also been a member of FBA District 19 All District Concert Band.
Ruarai McKenna, Eustis High School: He is a member of the Eustis High School Golden Panther Band program, participating in both the marching and concert band and has earned many Superior ratings at both the district and state level music performance assessments. He also has been a member and officer for the Thespian Honor Society for two years and the theatre program for three years.
Avery Morrison, Montverde Academy: She is a member of Montverde Academy’s Distinguished Scholars program and runs on MVA’s state-ranked, nationally recognized varsity cross country team. Avery has committed to attend and run for the University of California, San Diego, NCAA Division I cross country team.
Over 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of US high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishment and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to race, gender, ethnic orientation or religious preference.