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RHHS has three National Merit semifinalists
National Merit
From left: Kailey Griffith, Caroline Odom and Ireri Medrano of Richmond Hill High School have been recognized as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. - photo by Ted O'Neil

Richmond Hill High School for the second year in a row has three National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.They now have an opportunity to compete for some 7,500 scholarships worth $33 million that will be offered in the spring.

Kailey Griffith, Ireri Medrano and Caroline Odom achieved the honor based on the PSAT, scoring in the top 1 percent in Georgia.

Three other Wildcats — Rachel Quayle, Aaron Warner and Troy Watley — received “commended” status from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for scoring in the top 3 percent in the state.

Medrano, who graduated early, plans to return to her native Texas to attend Texas A&M and study applied mathematics and economics. Griffith wants to attend New York University to study international affairs and eventually become an environmental lawyer, while Odom will attend the University of Georgia to study business.

All three said they discovered early on that they had an aptitude for academics, but that it hasn’t always come easy.

“Like a lot of students I don’t want to go to school in the morning, but I enjoy it once I get there,” Odom laughed. “You have to work for it, but it helps when you have good peers and good teachers.”

Griffith agreed.

“I’ve always felt comfortable in school,” she said. “I enjoy studying because I see the value in it.”

Medrano said she has always put maximum effort into school.

“I try to find something interesting in everything,” she said. “Even the subjects I don’t necessarily like.”

Odom said she has enjoyed language arts and social studies classes while at RHHS and said Erin Turner has been her favorite teacher.

“She challenged me to be a better writer.”

Griffith said Natalie Newsom is her favorite teacher.

“It’s funny because English is my worst subject, but she’s always been very supportive of me in and out of class.”

Medrano points to Jennifer Kea as her “most impactful” teacher.

“I had a hard time adjusting when we moved here and she was there for me,” she said. “Four years later she still is.”

All three are active with extracurricular activities as well.

Medrano was president of the Key Club and a member of the quiz bowl team. Griffith is in the National Honor Society and a member of both the world cultures and creative arts clubs, and Odom plays French horn while participating in the NHS and Young Republicans.

National Merit semifinalists come from about 1.6 million juniors who take the PSAT. The highest scoring entrants in each state, about 1 percent of seniors, become eligible to be semifinalists. SAT scores and a detailed application that includes a semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership and honors along with an essay and administrators’ recommendations determine finalists.

About 15,000 semifinalists are expected to advance to the finalist level and will be notified in February. Finalists are selected for accomplishments as well as potential for success in college.

Every finalist competes for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships, and some 230 companies provide 1,000 scholarships to finalists who meet specific criteria, such as children of employees or residents of communities where sponsor companies are located. An additional 4,000 scholarships financed by 190 colleges and universities also are available. 

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