National Merit Semifinalists announced for Hamilton County Schools
Posted on 09/11/2019
Photo of McDonough, Cannon, Meller and WilliamsThe list of National Merit Semifinalists released today includes four seniors from Hamilton County Schools. Three of the four were from Signal Mountain Middle-High, giving the school the largest number of teens recognized from any single area public school for the second year in a row.

Students named semifinalists are the highest-scoring students in each state and continue in the competition for a National Merit Scholarship. Semifinalists make up fewer than 1 percent of all U.S. high school seniors.

“We are so proud of these amazing students for all of their hard work in achieving this prestigious accomplishment,” said Dr. Shane Harwood, principal at Signal Mountain Middle-High School.“It is extraordinary for these seniors to perform in the top 1.25 percent of all students nationwide!” Harwood added, “The rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, service projects, extra-curricular activities, and athletics at SMMHS provide a well-rounded educational experience for our students and prepares them for success after high school.”

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 this year. The test evaluates the critical reading, math, and writing skills of a student.

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

National Merit Semifinalists

Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS)
Sofia R. McDonough

Signal Mountain Middle-High School
Jackson Cannon
Maggie Meller
Gabe Williams

Sofia McDonough, a senior at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, is interested in a career in a STEM field but is undecided on a college at this time. She has volunteered at the Tennessee Aquarium during her time in high school and is very interested in the environment. “That is why I am leaning toward the sciences for my studies,” McDonough said. “There is a lot of good work in the world, but there are also a lot of problems. I want to be able to shape the world to be a better place.” At Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, McDonough has been active in volleyball, Student Government Association, Paideia Society, Model UN, Governor’s School for Visual Arts, TSA, Youth Orchestra, and CSAS Orchestra. Her advice to other students, McDonough said, “Worry less about what you think colleges will be impressed with and more about what you love to do because you will work hardest and get the most out of the things you love.”

Jackson Cannon, a senior at Signal Mountain Middle High, is involved in the Model UN, Beta Club, and the National Honor Society and he is on the bowling team at Signal Mountain. His career interests are undecided now, but he is considering arts and sciences. Cannon is also undecided on the college he will attend at this point. “My motivation throughout high school has been to prepare myself for further education and keep my grades at a level that would help me deal with the financial burden of college,” said Cannon. “The most important thing I’ve realized in high school is that doing the work and finishing on time makes a difference in your grades and understanding of the subjects.”

Maggie Meller, a senior at Signal Mountain Middle High, would like to go to a large, public university and major in Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Industrial Packaging and Design. She would like to pursue a master’s degree. Meller is involved in Mock Trial, Model UN allowing her to combine academics and a love for theatre. Meller also served as student body president at Signal Mountain. “I have always wanted to make the most of the opportunities I have been given and am fortunate to have in my life,” said Meller. “I would advise students to realize they can’t take on everything and to choose their extracurricular activities wisely so that their schedule does not interfere with success.”

Gabe Williams, a senior at Signal Mountain Middle High, plays tennis, is in the Student Council, vice president of the Signal Mountain Honors Society chapter, and he participates in Model UN and Youth in Government. He was individual singles state champion in tennis in 2018 and elected to the student council for the past three years. Williams is currently secretary of the student body. He would like to attend a small liberal arts college but has not decided which one and plans to study chemistry. “The majority of my motivation throughout high school came from my parents who have always encouraged me to do my best and done everything they could to help me reach my goals,” stated Williams. “When overwhelmed with school work, it helps to take one thing at a time and check off smaller objectives from my list instead of thinking of all the work as a whole.”

Photo: (Top L to R) Sofia R. McDonough, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences; and Jackson Cannon, Signal Mountain Middle High (Bottom L to R) Maggie Meller and Gabe Williams, Signal Mountain Middle High