Thursday, September 19, 2002

St. Xavier, Sycamore top Ohio in National Merit semifinalists

By Cindy Kranz,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For the second straight year, St. Xavier High School leads the state in the number of National Merit semifinalists, which were announced Wednesday.

        The all-boys Catholic school in Finneytown has 32 semifinalists. Second in the state is Sycamore High School — the No. 1 public school — with 25 semifinalists.

        St. Xavier had 27 semifinalists a year ago; Sycamore 15.

        “That is one way of measuring what we do here,” said St. Xavier spokesman Paul Zook. “Because we have more National Merit semifinalists here in the city — or even in the state — in a sense it's what we should do because we are exclusively college prep. We get the best kids we can.”

        Some 16,000 students nationwide were named semifinalists in the 48th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. They represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors.

        As juniors, students took the preliminary SAT /national merit scholarship qualifying test, which serves as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

        Semifinalists will compete for about 8,000 Merit Scholarship awards, worth $30 million, which will be offered next spring.

        Keith Kelly, Sycamore's first-year principal, credited the leadership of former principal Chuck Mason, who is now an assistant superintendent in the district.

        The number of semifinalists, Mr. Kelly said, is a reflection and a tribute to the students' education since kindergarten.

        “These things are not something that happen in isolation. These students are very well prepared in their school district. It's a real compliment to all the teachers they had in the Sycamore school system.

        “It can also be attributed to great parents who worked with their kids at home.”

        Karen Andrew contributed.        

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