Young Scholars

Three seniors at Decatur High School received recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Two of the students received commendation, while a third, Gus Joo, is a semifinalist, with a chance at earning one of 8,000 scholarships of $2,500. All three students, who scored well on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, say they make a point of not getting too worried about tests.

“He doesn’t study over-hard or get worried about anything,” said Kyung Joo, Gus’ father. “He is just a naturally talented kid.”

Kathleen Lenfest scored a 1,450 and received a commendation.

“It’s no big deal to me,” Lenfest said. “I’m one of those people who, instead of going in and thinking that this is a big test and it’s so important, goes in and treats it like it’s no big deal. Then I do well.”

Micah Ellison also received a commendation.

“You can definitely worry too much about it,” Ellison said. ‘You just go in and let it flow.”

Ellison is philosophical about being recognized for his score.

“It’s nice, but it also says while I was good enough to be recognized, I wasn’t good enough to get the award,” he said.

The National Merit Scholarship program is supported by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, an independent not-for-profit organization that conducts privately financed annual competitions for recognition and college undergraduate scholarships.

About 16,000 students from across the country are recognized as semifinalists during the fall. Those students are asked to submit applications for the NMSC scholarships. Of those, roughly half will received scholarship awards, including National Merit Scholarships of $2,500, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and college-sponsored awards.

So for Joo, it’s not over yet.

“We have to apply and we wait until February,” said Kyung Joo. “We are very excited.”

Joo, a four-year varsity tennis player at Decatur, is hoping to be accepted to one of several colleges on the East Coast.

For the other two, life still has plenty to offer.

Ellison is an avid musician, playing accompanying piano for the school jazz choir, and playing guitar in an as-yet unnamed band. He hopes to attend the University of Washington, and continue his music.

Lenfest, meanwhile, is still mulling over her post-high school options. She loves English and art, and continues to pursue her writing and sketching.

“I’m addicted to books,” she said. “But I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.”

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