The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


8 Students Recognized for National Merit Scholarship Accomplishments


Casey Donahue, Nour Khachnaoui, Zana Royster

Staff Writers

Seven Commended Students and one Semifinalist were recognized with a ceremony on October 1 for their exceptional scores in the PSAT 10/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), which they took last fall in their junior year along with students across the country.

Students whose scores lie within the 96th percentile are recognized as Commended Students, and students with scores in the 99th percentile of their state are named National Merit Semifinalists. 

Nathaniel Burkhead is the sole ACHS semifinalist this year. He says he didn’t expect to become a semifinalist but nonetheless was honored to receive the recognition.

“I was pretty surprised because I didn’t think I got it,” said Burkhead. “But then I found out I did, and that was really exciting.”

Burkhead says that the recognition of his hard work means a lot to him. 

“I think the most important thing is both being able to put it on my college applications and hopefully making my application more competitive,” he said. “Also, the chance of hopefully getting some money for it as well would be really awesome.”

Semifinalist Nathaniel Burkhead

In addition to the semifinalist, seven ACHS students are Commended Students: Leah Devendorf, Catherine Goldstein, Molly Hill, Reid Kidd, Landon Meazell and siblings Alex Radt and Katherine Radt. 

Devendorf says that she feels honored to be recognized in the competition, which shows the progress she has made throughout high school. 

“I’m really happy for the fact that the work I put in over the years in high school has led up to something like this,” she said.

Goldstein, another Commended Student, agrees that the reward of being recognized is meaningful to her.

“It’s just good to see how the hard work paid off,” she said.

The recognized students— who all plan on attending college—  say that they are thrilled to display their accomplishments on their college applications. The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Johns Hopkins University, University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan are among the plethora of schools the students are interested in. Their performance on the test is expected to strengthen their application to these selective schools.

Commended Student Meazell says that the recognition was “a nice surprise.”

“I guess it put a gold star on my application!” he said.

ACHS Executive Principal Peter Balas

Behind each student’s success is a strong, supportive administration.

“This is one of my favorite things each year because it’s such an intimate gathering and a nice way for everyone to come together to celebrate such a really wonderful achievement,” said ACHS Executive Principal Peter Balas. 

The ceremony serves not only as a chance for students to be recognized in front of their peers but also provides a source of inspiration for other ACHS students, says ACHS Director of School Counseling Rosalyn Briana Hardaway. 

“I commend all of you and thank you for being role models in our school and just setting the tone for other people,” she said in a speech to the students.

From left: Academy 8 Counselor Jessica Gilbert, Commended Student Alex Radt

Academy 8 Counselor Jessica Gilbert planned the ceremony in order to celebrate the students’ successes. 

“I think it’s important for them to receive recognition,” she said. “So to be able to be recognized within a really small percentage— which I believe this is a top 3-4 percent out of all the testers— [it] is a really big deal to come out of that number.”

In the 2022 competition (students took the PSAT in 2020), there were four ACHS semifinalists, but this year only Burkhead qualified. Gilbert attributes the decline partially to the pandemic. 

“So, I think that with the whole test [being] optional and then the pandemic, that might have impacted some of the numbers this year. That might go down a little bit,” she said. “It’d be interesting to see what it’d be like for next year.”

All photos by Casey Donahue for Theogony

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8 Students Recognized for National Merit Scholarship Accomplishments