Students compete for Merit honors

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Five area scholars named semifinalists

By Kelly Cantrall

Local high school seniors are competing for a prestigious national scholarship this year.

Several students in Hardin County were named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists this month.

Abby Hinkson, a senior at Central Hardin High School; Jackson Shaw, a senior at Elizabethtown High School; Rachel Lachut, a senior at North Hardin High School; and Tony Bell, a senior at Fort Knox High School, were designated semifinalists. Evelyn Whelan, a senior at LaRue County High School, also was named a Merit semifinalist.

The seniors are among 16,000 semifinalist across the nation. Semifinalists are selected based on pre-SAT scores. Participants will submit an application that includes a resume and an essay to move on to the finalist stage, which the majority do.

About 8,000 will receive a Merit scholarship from the organization, a corporation or a college.

Hinkson took the test in hopes she would receive a scholarship. She knew Central students had success in the past with the National Merit process.

“I figured I am the first in my class,” she said, laughing. “It might as well be me.”

She thought her chances had come and gone until Principal Tim Isaacs let her know she was selected as a semifinalist.

“I was like, ‘Oh, so I really did do well,’” she said.

Lachut previously took the pre-SAT exam to prepare for her junior-year test, because being named a Merit Scholar is a goal.

Her score improved by 30 points between her sophomore and junior years.

“It put me more at ease,” she said of taking the test once before. “I knew what to expect.”

She’s excited about the semifinalist status, but knows there’s still a road ahead.

“It felt like a moment of triumph, but this was just the beginning,” Lachut said.

Hinkson’s dream is to attend Vanderbilt University and pursue an education career teaching English or math in high school. She recalls teachers who made an impact on her and wants to do the same for others.

“I want to be a teacher that some kid remembers when they graduate,” she said.

Shaw is considering pursuing a career in engineering.

“I just really like the analytical side of it,” he said.

But he also is considering medical school. He is taking an anatomy class he enjoys.

“Just the way living things work, I think it’s really cool.” he said.

Attending medical school is expensive, so having a scholarship to partially finance his undergraduate degree would be helpful, he said.

Lachut said the scholarship would be great, but just putting Merit semifinalist on a resume “says something massive.”

Lachut’s dream is to compose music for films, but she’s also considering education “if the whole move-and-be-a-famous-composer thing doesn’t work out.”

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at 270-505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.