Bright Future: Trinity senior Rodriguez selected as semifinalist
NATCHEZ — Sarah Rodriguez is one of 16,000 students across the country selected as a semifinalist in the 59th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
Rodriguez, 17, is a senior at Trinity Episcopal Day School and said the honor of being selected has also come with a slew of other emotions.
“I am nervous because there’s a lot riding on this, and because I’m competing against some of the best students in the nation,” Rodriguez said. “But it’s also incredibly exciting because there is so much that can come out of this, and it’s just such an honor to even be considered.”
The National Merit Scholarship Program is a scholarship competition for recognition and university scholarships.
Students are selected based on their scores as juniors on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Qualifying Test.
“After I took the PSAT, we didn’t really hear a whole lot back,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t until last week that my guidance counselor took me into the headmaster’s office and told me.
“I was really excited and kind of surprised.”
Nearly 1.5 million high-school juniors in more than 22,000 high schools took the PSAT to be entered in the competition, according to the National Scholarship Corp., which sponsors the competition.
National Merit officials say nearly 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to advance to finalists with the chance to compete for nearly 8,000 National Merit Scholarships worth approximately $35 million, which will be offered next spring.
Semifinalists must advance to the finalist standing in the competition by meeting high academic standards and all other requirements. Finalists will be announced in February.
“It’s similar to a college application where it asks for a lot of information like extra curriculars, and it has an essay along with it,” Rodriguez said. “The essay has to be about a person or event that has had a huge impact on you and how it has impacted you.
“I have a few ideas, but it’s going to take me a little time to chisel out and make it a coherent thought.”
Rodriguez said she didn’t know much about the National Merit Scholarship Program until fellow Trinity classmate Jheri Dupré Ogden became the 15th Trinity National Merit Finalist since the school was founded in 1963.
“She won the whole thing, and that’s the first time I had heard about it, but I learned a lot through her experiences,” Rodriguez said. “I was able to learn what a great opportunity it was and a great honor to be rewarded for your academic achievements.”
Rodriguez is no stranger to those achievements, as the Trinity student said she’s maintained a straight-A average since fifth grade.
“Whenever I was in the fifth grade, there was this little room near the cafeteria where you could eat if you kept straight As,” Rodriguez said. “I started getting the grades so I could be allowed to eat in there, and that was the first time I was really rewarded for succeeding academically.
“Afterward, I realized that I can keep getting good grades as long as I stayed focus.”
Rodriguez said she would continue to focus on her academic achievements for the remainder of her senior year as she decides on which university she wants to attend after graduation.
“I want to go to college in a very different environment, so I’m looking at some schools in the northeast,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just hoping to reach out and experience a new type of place and get a new start on the next chapter of my life.”
Rodriguez is the daughter of Dr. Jack and Linda Rodriguez.