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


Students Commemorated for Academic Achievements

Derya Marie Orhan
Students and staff join together to take a photo at the ceremony recognizing students who received a Recognition Award or National Merit Scholarship honors.

On Friday, October 13, four Semifinalists and seven Commended Students were recognized with a ceremony for their efforts on the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) which they took in the Fall of their junior year. This ceremony also recognized those who were awarded a National Recognition Award from the College Board due to their ethnicity, score on the NMSQT, Advanced Placement exam results and grade point average. 

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. 

Merit Scholarship Semifinalists stand arm-in-arm for a picture.  From left to right: Bennett Imlay, Benjamin Turney, Silas Adkins-Hooke, Abigail Gerstein.

Ben Turney was a part of the four Semifinalists this year.

“[The award] was something I was hoping for so I was really happy,” said Turney. “Obviously, I plan on going to college. I want to study aerospace engineering and I’m hoping to get the National Merit Scholarship to help pay for that.”

Senior Ned Brown alongside seven other students, was acknowledged as a Commended Student. 

Commended Students stand for a picture. From left to right: Thomas Lane, Chloe Yokitis, Bronwyn Turney, Ned Brown, Josephine Lawson.

For those who are taking the PSAT, he says, “Just try your best. It’s not that important, what really matters are the SATs.”

The College Board National Recognition Program grants awards to those who identify as Latino, Hispanic, Black, African American, Native, Indigenous, or attend high school in a rural area. 

Senior Lia Fitzgerald was one of the eight students acknowledged for the National Hispanic Recognition Award.

Students recognized for the National Hispanic Recognition Award pose for a photo. From left: Victoria Zambrano-Argueta, Erika Vidal, Sienna Lardizabal, Lia Fitzgerald.

“I feel honored and happy because I’ve never received an award like this before,” said Fitzgerald. “I think it’s a nice recognition for all the students who received the award [and] it gives a bigger sense of accomplishment that I think all the other [awarded] students enjoyed.”

Although this is not a scholarship program, it can be used for academic honor in students’ college applications. 

“It [provides] me with an accomplishment that colleges can see and connect with my background and take into consideration,” said Fitzgerald.

Junior Malia Cozier received the National African American Recognition Award along with fifteen other students. 

Students who received a National African American Recognition Award smile for a photograph.  Front row from left: Caleb Etse, Malia Cozier, Alem Alem, Hayat Ismael , Taylor Frazier, Yahney-Marie Sangare. Back row from left: Essey Tesfai, Daniel Dawit, Girum Tekle, William Price, Nahom Yohannes.

In response to what this award meant to her, she said, “Even as a minority I can still do things to be recognized for and still accomplish things academically.” 

College & Career counselor Jessica Gilbert has worked on this event for the past couple of years.

“I think these are one of the fun moments we get to have each year,” said Gilbert. “I think it also reminds us of all the amazing work that goes on in the school. All the hard work that the parents, especially the counselors, are doing.” 

This is the first time since the introduction of the recognition award in 2020, that students at ACHS have been honored for this achievement with a ceremony.

“This year, College Board was really great about sending us a list of the National African American award [and] the National Hispanic awarded students ahead of time to the point that we were able to make it very inclusive this year, “ said Gilbert. 

As a recipient of one of the awards Cozier added, “[This shows] they want the students to actually go and get something.” 

College & Career counselors Jessica Gilbert and William Esswein speak to the attendees of the ceremony.

Gilbert agrees saying, “[Standardized tests are] really something you have to choose to do, so the fact that students are still taking it serious as far as preparing for college, participating in these exams, I think it’s definitely worth it to acknowledge that they’re stepping out of their box, and taking the initiative to take the test even though it’s not required for them.”

In 2022, ACHS only had one Semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship. This year they have four.

“I think that we have amazing students that really did well on the test,” said Gilbert. “I think it’ll be interesting to see if there were more students that tested in the PSAT last year vs the previous years. But honestly I think it came down [to] how well the students tested in that index group.”

Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt and African American Recognition Award recipient Alem Alem laugh together.

With regards to her hopes of the students Gilbert says, “I’m really hoping that we make it to a finalist this year, that would be exciting, because four Semifinalists is an amazing achievement.”

Gilbert especially enjoys the different people that the celebration commemorates.

“I love that this year we represent a lot of cultures and really be able to acknowledge all the amazing work that different varieties of students are doing,” said Gilbert.

Parts of this interview have been edited for clarity. 


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