Nine from Hamilton County Schools are National Merit Semifinalists
Posted on 09/21/2020
Photo: Nine Students from Hamilton County Schools are National Merit SenifinalistsThe list of National Merit Semifinalists released recently includes nine seniors from Hamilton County Schools. Four of the nine were from Signal Mountain Middle-High, giving the school the largest number of teens recognized from any single area public school for the third consecutive year.

These academically talented high school seniors can continue in the competition through the spring for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. Over 90 percent of the Semifinalists regularly attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title. Students named semifinalists are the highest-scoring students in each state and continue competing for a National Merit Scholarship. Semifinalists make up fewer than one percent of all U.S. high school seniors.

Students begin the National Merit process during their junior year by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test(PSAT/NMSQT). More than 1.5 million juniors in high schools across the country took the test that evaluates critical reading, math, and writing skills.

In the spring, National Merit will announce the winners of 7,500 Scholarships worth more than $31 million. Finalists are announced in February with scholarship winner notifications from March to June.

National Merit Semifinalists from Hamilton County Schools

Central High
Grayson Catlett

Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS)
Collin Matthews

Collegiate High
Braxton Mahr

Signal Mountain Middle-High School
Matthew Ashline
Carson Bock
Chase Post
"Yoonie" Seo Yoon Yang

STEM School Chattanooga
Lauren Bennett
Tucker Quering

Matthew Ashline, a senior and International Baccalaureate Diploma Program student at Signal Mountain High, is interested in a possible career in biochemical research. He is currently the president of the SMMHS Leo Club and a clarinet section leader in the Signal Corps Marching Band. At Signal, he also participates in Model United Nations, Mu Alpha Theta, and Technology Student Association TEAMS. Ashline is part of the Chattanooga Symphony Opera Youth Symphony Orchestra and has been selected as a First Chair All-East and recently All-State Bassoonist. If Ashline were to advise other students in their journey, he would say, "Find an interest you are passionate about, turn that passion into hard work, and you will find success. But above all else, never forget to serve others, for it is our love and care for one another that makes our society great in this journey through life."

Lauren Bennett, a senior at STEM School Chattanooga, plans to pursue either Biology or Architecture in college. She enjoys both life sciences and design and desires to build a career in those areas.

Carson Bock, a senior at Signal Mountain High, plans to pursue a double major in civil engineering and political science. She would like to pursue a career in civil engineering and eventually work in the political arena, possibly as a campaign manager. At Signal Mountain Middle/High, Bock has been heavily involved in the school theatre program as a stage manager, participated in Model UN, Mock Trial, LEO Club, National Honor Society, and Beta Club. She has also been a member of the Technology Student Association (TSA) since sixth grade and is currently serving as the president of the Tennessee Technology Student Association. Bock is also passionate about education advocacy.

Grayson Catlett, a senior at Central High, excels both in the classroom and in the community. His academic schedule during his four years at Central High School consisted of Honors and AP classes. Catlett completed his Honors Algebra I class while in middle school. He is very active in the community, with involvement with the SCOPE conference and volunteering with his church. Catlett has helped with Upward basketball and headed up recreation activities for kindergarteners. Catlett was one of two seniors selected to represent Central High School at the Youth Leadership Summit. He does all of this while working a job and maintaining a 4.0 GPA and scoring 34 on his ACT. "Grayson's motivation comes from the thought of being a first-generation college student in his family," said Stacy Alexander, college and career advisor at Central High. "He has seen the financial struggle of not having a college education and is striving to avoid that, along with the debt that comes with college. His quest for college and the attitude he displays at school around his peers is what makes him stand out."

Braxton Mahr, a senior at Collegiate High, is interested in a career in computer science. He is currently a remote research assistant for Poland under the CoronaNet project. "When interacting with a piece of technology, most people don't think about what is happening behind the scenes to create the result that they see, said Mahr. "Computers are objects of logic, and it is through carefully crafting that logic that we can build the tools we have today and those of tomorrow. I feel the need to be a part of the group of people constructing society's future." At Collegiate High, Mahr has been a member of both Phi Theta Kappa and national college honors society with a local chapter at Chattanooga State. He is also in the Global Scholars Honors Program at the college. Mahr will be a December high school graduate and will also receive his Associate of Arts, University Parallel college degree.

Collin Matthews, a senior at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, is interested in a career in mathematics or computer science. He was one of the select seniors to score a perfect 36 score on the ACT this year. Matthews is undecided about school plans for college, but he would like to study in the STEM field.

Chase Post, a senior at Signal Mountain High, is interested in pursuing a degree in electrical or industrial engineering, but he is also passionate about economics. Post currently participates in TEAMS engineering competitions through TSA and math league through Mu Alpha Theta. He is heavily involved in the Signal Mountain Leo Club as a vice president. Besides being a member of Mu Alpha Theta, National Honors Society, and Beta Club, he is also a junior national level swimmer. Each summer, Post lifeguards at the local town pool and gives summer league swim lessons to young swimmers. When asked what he would like to say to younger students, Post said, "I think the most important thing to remember is that it's okay to make mistakes. When we make mistakes, we learn valuable lessons that may otherwise go unlearned. All you can do, no matter what happens, is keep working hard, pursue what makes you happy, and give to others whenever you can."

Tucker Quering, a senior at STEM School Chattanooga, is interested in enhancing his understanding of math and computer program after high school. He would like to build on those interests for a career.

"Yoonie" Seo Yoon Yang, a senior at Signal Mountain High, is passionate about advocacy, international relations, and government. She currently serves on the National Advisory Board for Students Demand Action and as the director-general for the Southeastern High School Model United Nations Conference. At Signal Mountain, Yang participates in Student Council, Mock Trial, Youth in Government, and served as the editor-in-chief of the yearbook in her sophomore year. Yang is part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Signal and aspires to major in foreign affairs/international relations. "Make opportunities for yourself. If you're really passionate about something or you want to make a change, don't accept no as an option," Yang said when asked what advice she had for younger students. "Make connections. Reach out. Create relationships. You'd be surprised by how many people are willing to help you be successful in this world."

The 2020 group of Semifinalists are part of the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. NMSC underwrites scholarships along with approximately 400 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC's goals of honoring the nation's scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.