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Seniors from Mon and Preston schools named National Merit Scholars

Four high school seniors from Monongalia and Preston’s school districts are now in elite company.

They were named National Merit Scholars, the scholarship’s Illinois-based corporation announced Wednesday.

Nationally, more than 15,000 seniors from across the U.S. were recognized as semifinalists earlier this year.

Morgantown High had two National Scholars named: Pratham Bhanushali, who will likely pursue neurology; and Grace Yan, whose career plans are presently undecided.

University’s High’s Andrew Kisner plans on a career in mathematics.

Margot Cerbone, of Preston High School, will likely study law.

Eleven scholars in all were named from West Virginia, also representing Charleston Catholic High School, Wheeling Park High School, Clay County High School, Cabell-Midland High School and Woodrow Wilson High in Beckley.

Semifinalists and ultimate scholarship winners make up less than 1% of the national population among those in their 12th year of school, the National Merit organization said.

Scholars are named based on their grades and community service outside the four walls of the classroom.

The National Merit Scholarship program was born of its times.

It was established during the Cold War in 1955, over concerns that the U.S. was lagging intellectually in the world.

The main organizational goal then was to encourage young students, by way of committed teachers and unique course offerings, to develop their full academic and professional potential in a global dynamic forever changed by World War II.

After passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the program expanded with its National Achievement Scholarship Program for Black students who are top performers in the classroom.

Scholarships from the National Merit organization — which is nonprofit — are underwritten with its own funds and 400 supporting businesses nationwide.

Meanwhile, more than 350,000 have earned the Merit Scholar title in the nearly 70 years of the scholarship’s existence.

National Merit Scholarship finalists over the years include software innovator and social activist Bill Gates, blues guitarist Elvin Bishop and filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan.

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