QUINCY — Four area high school seniors are among some 16,000 semifinalists nationwide in the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Harrison Knapp and Dev Patel of Quincy High School, Sam Hirner of Hannibal High School and Evan Nierman of Palmyra High School all say they’re honored to participate in the program offering some 7,500 scholarships worth nearly $30 million.

“I’m incredibly proud of both myself and my school. The way that I’ve been able to use my education to make it as a semifinalist really says something about my teachers and the quality of education I received. I’m really thankful for how I’ve been cultivated so far,” Nierman said.

“It shows that even though we’re a small community with sometimes limited resources we still can produce students that can achieve what other schools with more resources and bigger staff can achieve,” Patel said. “It also shows that me and Harrison are very hard-working and dedicated students, and that we’ve been helped by a lot of our teachers and other students along the way as well as our parents.”

The path to the 67th annual scholarship program began in junior year when the students took the PSAT. The highest-scoring students in each state become semifinalists, which represent less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors.

“It proves that we can achieve at Quincy Senior High School. I’m proud that we can represent the school,” Knapp said.

“It’s one of those things you know is a possibility, but you don’t really think it’s going to happen. I am just very surprised,” said Hirner, who credited supportive teachers at Hannibal High School. “When you talk on somebody’s level and encourage them and say you can learn at a higher level, it makes me excited to learn more.”

The next step in the competition, becoming a finalist, involves submitting a detailed application focused on the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, employment and honors and awards. The students also must write an essay, submit letters of recommendation and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm their PSAT performance.

The application is due Oct. 6.

About 15,000 of the semifinalists are expected to advance to the finalist level in February, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring.

Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarships will be provided by some 220 corporations and business organizations for finalists meeting their specified criteria, and about 180 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists attending the sponsor institution.

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