The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced Wednesday the names of about 16,000 semifinalists in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship Program, and five are Northwest Florida students.
Indira S. Mishra of Niceville High School, Hannah Y. Suh of Rocky Bayou Christian School and Michaela M. O'Grady, John C. Ratkowiak and Benjamin Van Sleen of Gulf Breeze High School are among the 2019 semifinalists.
Michael Mosley, Rocky Bayou's superintendent, says Suh is a remarkable student who focuses on the betterment of the school.
"She's a young lady that has worked very hard to achieve this," Mosley said. "To me, the remarkable thing is that all that hard work and focus and concentration has not diminished her commitment to really serve her classmates and her school. She's a delightful young lady who's involved in fine arts, academic competitions, student government ... (and) athletics."
Niceville High School Principal Charlie Marello says Mishra matches rigorous coursework with a high GPA.
"Personally, Indira is such a pleasant and positive young lady," Marello said. "When we talk about student leaders and the character traits that we look to develop in our students, Indira is the epitome of what we would want all of our Eagles to become."
Gulf Breeze Principal Daniel Brothers praised his three students for their accomplishments in and out of the classroom.
"They are well-rounded individuals and just contribute so much to the life of our school," Brothers said.
The semifinalists have the opportunity to continue in the competition for approximately 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million to be offered next spring, according to a news release.
To be considered for an award, the semifinalists must fulfill several requirements. More than 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the students will win a scholarship and earn the title of Merit Scholar.
More than 1.6 million high school juniors in about 22,000 high schools across the country entered the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2017 PSAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, the release said.
The pool of semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of high school seniors nationwide. To become a finalist, each semifinalist and their high school must submit a detailed scholarship application with information about their academic record, participation in school activities, leadership abilities, employment and honors/awards received.
Semifinalists must have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed by a high school official, write an essay and earn high SAT scores. Finalists will be notified in February 2019 and Merit Scholars will be announced starting in April and concluding in July, according to the release.