Academic success has always come naturally to Wellington High School senior Savannah McKee.
She easily passed advanced testing as a child, scored a perfect 36 on last year’s ACT, and found out Sept. 12 that she was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.
McKee learned she’d earned the honor when principal Tina Drake announced it to the whole school over the PA system.
“Mr. (Patrick) Gallion had told me it was pretty much guaranteed with my scores and everything. But it was still pretty cool to hear it out loud,” she said.
Roughly 1.6 million students annually are considered for the National Merit Scholarship. Of that number, 50,000 are selected to become semifinalists or commended students based on their PSAT scores.
Only 16,000 students — or one percent high school seniors — make it to the semifinal round, which is decided on a state-representational basis.
Finally, these students compete for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth a combined $34 million.
McKee will find out whether she’s a finalist in February. Winners are slated to be named by next summer.
Finalists and winners are decided by looking at students’ entire resumes, from academic achievement to community service, personal recommendations, and extracurricular activities. McKee is also tasked with penning an essay for the final round.
The senior is only the third Wellington student since 1999 to score perfectly on the ACT and is the school FFA chapter’s vice president.
She’s also president of the Civil War club, a member of drama and key clubs, and an intern with College Now Greater Cleveland’s impACT program.
“The finals are basically like a college application,” she said. “I’ll have to put down all of my activities and all of the things I do in school, grades and everything. There’s $2,500 you get a year from winning it but also a lot of other scholarships that can be factored in.”
While McKee hasn’t yet finalized college plans, she’s visited Baldwin Wallace University and is considering careers in criminal justice and state wildlife preservation.
“Growing up around here has definitely encouraged my passion for the outdoors,” she said. “State wildlife officers have a K-9 unit so that would be something that I’d love. I love animals, the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and everything. It would be a cool way to do both criminal justice and work with animals and combine so many passions of mine.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.