Trinity senior named finalist in National Merit program
NATCHEZ — Knowing she can compete with other students across the country academically has been the ultimate reward for Sarah Rodriguez, who was named a finalist in the 58th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
Rodriguez is a senior at Trinity Episcopal Day School and one of 15,000 students across the country who advanced from the level of semifinalist to finalist.
“I’ve always tried to do really well in school, but I’ve always had that insecurity of thinking that I was just doing well in the environment I’m in because I am in a small town and small school,” Rodriguez said. “But this really reassured me that I’m able to keep up with people who have more resources and grew up in a larger place.
“It allows me to feel comfortable about the future and where I’m going.”
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.
Nearly 1.5 million high-school juniors in more than 22,000 high schools took the PSAT for entry in the competition, according to the National Scholarship Corp., which sponsors the competition.
The 15,000 finalists will have the chance to compete for nearly 8,000 National Merit Scholarships worth approximately $35 million, which will be announced in March.
Students advanced to the finalist standing by meeting high academic standards, a written essay and other requirements.
Rodriguez said she wrote her essay about growing up in Natchez and being influenced by the community.
“We’re in such a traditionally underserved area with a lot of poverty, so I talked about what it’s been like growing up here and how that’s influenced the way I look at poverty,” she said. “I also talked about how education is so important because of that poverty and how it can help people get more opportunities.”
Rodriguez said the support she’s received from her parents, Dr. Jack and Linda Rodriguez, as well as the teachers and administrators at Trinity have helped get her where she is today.
“I’ve just always had a lot of great support around me at all times,” Rodriguez said. “Because of that support and recognition I’ve been given, I’ve been able to think about what I need to accomplish in the long term and not just focus on what I want to accomplish right now.”
Those goals include being accepted to one of her top two universities — Yale or Brown — where she hopes to study biology or English.
“Those are the two areas I’m kind of torn between now, but I also want to keep an open mind regarding what to study in college,” Rodriguez said. “I have those two ideas right now, but once I get to school I could be exposed to something totally different and want to change paths.”
Linda Rodriguez, who is also a teacher at Trinity, said seeing her daughter head off to college soon will be sad, but knowing the future ahead of her is exciting.
“We’re just so pleased she’s choosing her own path and doing every bit of work she has to do to get there,” Linda said. “I love seeing kids who make a goal for themselves and then strive to reach it.
“As a teacher, that is one of the most exciting parts of my job, and as a mother, it’s been wonderful to have a child who pays a lot of attention to detail and has always pushed herself academically.”
Trinity Head of School Les Hegwood said he is proud of Rodriguez for joining the ranks of other National Merit semifinalists and finalists.
“It’s just wonderful to see a young person as driven as she is succeed,” Hegwood said. “We, as a school, are going to relish the time we have left with Sarah and watch her continue to do great things and be a leader in the school.”