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National Merit semi-finalists, pictured from top left going clockwise, are: John Reynoldson, Beckett LaPrade, Ryan Huang, Abigail Levering, Elliott Chen & Ada Fender.

Students at Central Academy have recently earned national recognitions for their academic excellence. Six students have been named semi-finalists for the National Merit Scholarship while three more are finalists for the QuestBridge Scholarship.

In addition to attending Central Academy the honored scholars represent Hoover, North, Roosevelt and Virtual Campus as well as Clarke High School (enrolling into Central Academy).

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QuestBridge finalists, pictured left to right, are: Quest Bridge Finalists from left to right: Selman Pepeljak, Roaa Kordeir & Lynn Phu.

The National Merit semi-finalists, and their home high schools, include:

  • Elliott Chen – Roosevelt High School
  • Ada Fender – Roosevelt High School
  • Ryan Huang – Roosevelt High School
  • Beckett LaPrade – Roosevelt High School
  • Abigail Levering – Virtual Campus
  • John Reynoldson – Clarke High School

The QuestBridge finalists, and their home high schools, are:

  • Lynn Phu – North High School
  • Roaa Kordeir – Roosevelt High School
  • Selman Pepeljak – Hoover High School

“When Central Academy was established in 1985 it was, in part, to cultivate National Merit Scholars among Des Moines’ students.  Since then, every National Merit Scholar in our district has attended Central Academy for part of their high school experience.  And we’ve expanded to other scholarship recognitions such as QuestBridge,” said Dr. Jessica Gogerty, director of Central Academy and head of Advanced Placement Programming at DMPS. “These are not easy recognitions to achieve.  Every student who becomes a semi-finalist or finalist has worked exceptionally hard to develop their skills and knowledge.  Like elite athletes, this level of achievement requires practice, dedication, coaching, and a team of peers to spur them onward especially when they face setbacks.  At Central Academy we hold ourselves to the highest standards and support each other in our lowest moments. I am very proud of our National Merit Semi-Finalists and QuestBridge finalists. Their perseverance, dedication, and camaraderie are a joy to witness.”

Nearly 16,000 students across the nation were named as semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship program. The high school students will now compete for 7,600 scholarships worth more than $30 million, which will be given out next year. More than 1.5 million high school juniors in about 21,000 schools across the country entered the 2021 merit program through taking the 2020 preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which screened initial applicants, according to the organization.

Semifinalists represent less than 1% of American high school students. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout their time in high school, be recommended by their high school, and write an essay. More than 600 National Merit Semi-Finalists have attended Des Moines Public Schools over the years.

For more information about the National Merit Scholarship, visit their web site.

The QuestBridge scholarship supports the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with the opportunity to attend the nation’s leading institutions of higher education. QuestBridge aims to increase the percentage of talented low-income students attending the nation’s best universities and the ranks of national leadership itself.

QuestBridge works with 45 of the nation’s top-ranked colleges and universities in providing four-year scholarships worth more than $200,000 each to cover tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and travel expenses.

For more information about the QuestBridge Scholarship, visit their web site.

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