School Board recognizes a record four National Merit Finalists from Livingston Parish


The Livingston Parish School Board recognized four students, two from Denham Springs High and two from Live Oak High, who were named 2020 National Merit Scholarship finalists during its meeting on Thursday, March 5, 2020. Pictured, from left, are Denham Springs High Principal Wes Howard, Denham Springs High seniors Katie Howard and Sophie Faircloth, Live Oak High seniors Emily Rushing and Tyler Zeringue, and Live Oak High Principal Beth Jones. David Gray | The News

LIVINGSTON, La. (The Livingston Parish News) — One of the most prestigious academic achievements a student can earn is being named a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship award, which goes to just a minuscule percentage of all graduating seniors nationwide.

Unless it’s in Livingston Parish, which has more than ever this year.

The Livingston Parish School Board recognized four seniors who were named 2020 National Merit Scholarship finalists during its meeting on Thursday, March 5.

Sophie Faircloth and Katie Howard, both of Denham Springs High, along with Emily Rushing and Tyler Zeringue, both of Live Oak High, were four of 15,000 finalists across the country to receive the honor.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition that recognizes and honors academically talented students across the U.S. Each year, approximately 1.6 million high school juniors enter the competition by taking the Pre-SAT.

One percent are selected as semifinalists, and even fewer are named finalists.

Kellee Jones, high school supervisor of instruction for Livingston Parish Public Schools, told the School Board that, prior to this year, the most finalists in a single year in the parish was two. Additionally, no school had ever had more than one in a school year.

Both of those records have now changed thanks to the tireless work of the four students, who drew a standing ovation from the gathered crowd after receiving plaques signifying their awards.  

“Thank you for making us proud,” said School Board President Bo Graham.

During the meeting, Jones rattled off the lengthy list of academic accomplishments of the four students, who represent the top one-half percent of all graduating seniors nationwide.

All four are currently recognized as AP Scholars with Distinction, Jones said, and all are expected to graduate as National AP Scholars, the highest honor awarded by a college board. On average, the students have earned college credit on seven AP exams — accomplished through their junior years — and are currently enrolled in five AP classes as seniors.

The four students also excel outside of the classroom, Jones said. They represent two band students, an all-district volleyball player, an accomplished dancer, and a member of the school’s ambassador program.

“You can see this is a very well-rounded group,” Jones said.

Jones also noted that all four students are “Livingston made,” having attended Livingston Parish schools since elementary.

“They’ve come through the ranks and are products of the LPPS system,” he said. “You’ve made Livingston Parish extremely proud, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”

The winning students will be announced starting in March, when representatives from the National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) will notify approximately 7,500 finalists at their home addresses that they were selected to receive a Merit Scholarship award.

Since 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has recognized more than 3 million students and provided more than 423,000 scholarships worth in excess of $1.7 billion.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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