Clarkston scholars earn national accolades
November 16, 2011 - Six Clarkston High School students are semi-finalists for the National Merit scholarship after taking their PSATs last fall.
From left, Caleb Jenkins, Andrew Salada, Melissa Pavlik, Hannah Frame and Kyle Gruebnau. Not pictured, Nick Dahl. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
Nick Dahl, Melissa Pavlik, Andrew Salada, Hannah Frame, Kyle Gruebnau and Caleb Jenkins are among 16,000 students around the nation qualifying for the program based on their test scores.
"It is pretty incredible," said Pavlik. "For me it is something you think only demigods can get. You never really think of it as a real thing."
"It seems surreal," added Salada. "The process of being distinguished as one of the top students in the country is really something special."
Only 175 students at Clarkston took the test last fall due to the limited seating for the test. Two million students around the country take the test and only eight percent become National Merit Semi-finalists.
Students in the top 34,000 are named commended students, before the top 16,000 are selected. Four students from Clarkston made the commended list - Stephanie Marani, Alex Richards, Eric Shahly and Noah Shutty.
"It is a very prestigious honor," said Principal Gary Kaul. "We have six semi-finalists and four were commended – it's double the number we have had in the last 10 years."
He added it comes from the commitment Clarkston students have for academics.
"They are all very well-rounded individuals," Kaul said. "Some are in music and band. Some are athletes. Quite a few are taking dual enrollment classes."
The next steps for the six are taking their SAT, writing an essay and sending their application in hopes to become one of the 15,000 selected as finalists for scholarships.
"The counselors told us there was scholarship money involved," Gruebnau said. "I didn't know it was such an important test when I took it. I was actually one of the last three people to get in."
Jenkins, Pawlik, Salada, Frame and Gruebnau admitted the only preparation they had for the test was sleep and knowledge from their education.
"Our education plays a big part," added Salada. "We were able to do it because we were exposed to it."
"We have been lucky to have advanced classes at Clarkston," added Frame. "The advanced courses are all important to us."
Salada, Jenkins and Gruebnau are in dual enrollment with college courses and AP classes. Gruebnau is also in CSMTech. Pavlik and Frame are in International Baccalaureate, higher level classes and AP classes.
They also participate in a range of different extracurricular activities. Jenkins was on the football team; Gruebnau is part of Business Professionals of America; Salada is involved in his church youth group. Pavlik and Frame are in National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, Recycling Club and mock trial.
They have plans for the future and know what they would like to study. Pavlik would like to go into political science, and Frame, either in the sciences or law. For Jenkins, engineering or the medical field, and Salada plans on aerospace engineering. Gruebnau is leaning towards engineering but will take an introduction class to see where he would like to go.
They will find out in February if they are finalists in the National Merit Scholarship program.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.