SPHS National Merit Semifinalists (front row, left to right) Charis Au, Ella Lewis, Sarah Zenas, Jessica Deng. (Back row, left to right) Peter Wang, Evan Kowal, Barnett Yang, Samuel Clark, Albert Zhou. Not pictured: Andy Chung. Photo by Oscar Walsh, Tiger Newspaper

Ten South Pasadena High School students are among about 16,000 students nationwide to achieve recognition as 2020 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, according to a recent announcement by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Ten is the highest number of semifinalists from the school in the past five years, according to school documents. San Marino High School had nine 2020 awardees, according to a list of all Los Angeles County winners in the Los Angeles Daily News.

The SPHS semifinalists are: Charis Au, Andy Chung, Samuel Clark, Jessica Deng, Evan Kowal, Ella Lewis, Peter Wang, Barnett Yang, Sarah Zenas and Albert Zhou.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of the SPHS National Merit semifinalists,” SPHS Principal Janet Anderson said this week by email. “Their qualification for this achievement signifies their hard work and perseverance.” 

Last year, the students and their classmates took the Preliminary Scholarship Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

Anderson said that the school does offer preparation programs on campus.

However, she said, “I believe that these 10 students have applied themselves diligently throughout their academic careers and have taken full advantage of the many and varied classroom activities they have experienced. They have set a high bar!”

Approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the U.S. advance to become finalists by meeting high academic standards and other requirements, according to the corporation’s website.

Students will be notified if they have become a finalist in February. Approximately 7,500 will receive a Merit Scholarship award. This could be a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship or a corporate- or college-sponsored award.

Outstanding students who may not have achieved finalist status have an opportunity to received special scholarships provided by corporations and business organizations.

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Sally Kilby, a South Pasadena resident, was City Clerk 2000-2013. Prior to that, she worked in health care as a nurse, medical librarian, advertising copywriter, writer and journal editor. She is involved in various community organizations. Her two grown children attended South Pasadena schools and work at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

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