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D-B students win National Merit Scholarships

Rick Wagner • Apr 20, 2016 at 8:25 AM

KINGSPORT — Five Dobyns-Bennett High School seniors, including twins, have won National Merit Scholarships from Eastman Chemical Co., putting them among more than 1,000 recipients of corporate-sponsored scholarships nationwide.

The Evanston, Ill.-based National Merit Scholarship Corporation Wednesday released the names of the first group of winners in the 61st annual National Merit Scholarship program. Eastman is among about 200 coporations, company foundations and other business organizations sponsoring the corporate scholarships.

The D-B winners are: 

— Alexander Caviness, who plans a career in engineering. The son of John Caviness and Sabrina Yu, he goes by Alex and in 2015 earned a top composite score of 36 on the ACT  on his second taking of that college entrance test.

— Samantha Cahill, who plans a career in bioengineering.

— Theresa Cahill, who plans a career in biomedical engineering.

The Cahills are twins and the daughters of John and Paula Cahill. Theresa got a perfect 36 on the ACT, and Samantha got a 35.

— Jennifer Garland, who plans a career in physics. She is the daughter of Wayne and Carol Garland.

— Kaylie Richard, who plans a career in biomedical engineering. She is the daughter of Kevin and Shelly Richard.

“I will say that it is an honor to work in a school and community that encourages and supports such high levels of achievement,” D-B Principal Chris Hampton said. “I am humbled daily at the hard work on the part of students and teachers that yields such high levels of success.” Three other D-B students are finalists but did not receive corporate scholarships. However, they are eligible for other National Merit Scholarships through other funding sources and/or other scholarships.

The list of corporate National Merit Scholarship winners includes no other Tri-Cities students and none from far Southwest Virginia. The NMSC emphasizes that the scholarships honor individual students, not schools, and comparing high schools based on the number of winners “will lead to erroneous and unsound conclusions” because the program “does not measure the quality of effectiveness of education within a school, system or state.”

More than 1.5 million juniors in about 22,000 high schools entered the contest by taking the 2014 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying contest, known as the PSAT. In September of 2015, 16,000 semifinalists were designated on a state representational basis. Semifinalists were the highest-scoring program entrants in each state and represented less than 1 percent of the nation’s seniors.

Each semifinalist has to fulfill requirements such as completing a detailed scholarship application, including an essay and information about extracurricular activities, awards and leadership positions. Semifinalists also had to have outstanding academic records, be endorsed and recommended by high school officials and earn SAT scores that confirmed their qualifying test performance on the PSAT. Of the 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 became finalists. 

By the conclusion of the 2016 competition, about 7,500 finalists will have been selected to receive scholarships totaling about $33 million.

The scholars were selected from students who advanced to the finalist level in the competition and met criteria of their scholarship sponsors. The corporate sponsors provide scholarships for finalists who are children of their employees, residents of the communities the company serves or plan to pursue college majors or careers the sponsor wishes to encourage.

Most of the awards are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate college study and provide annual spipends ranging from $500 to $10,000 a year. Some provide a single payment between $2,5000 and $5,000. Recipients can use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university of their choosing. In 61 years, the corporate sponsors have committed more than $750 million for the program.