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ALACHUA – One of the 26 Alachua County Public School students that have been named semifinalists in the prestigious 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) is from Santa Fe High School. Seventeen-year-old Tiffany Triplett from High Springs is that student.

NMSP semifinalists are chosen based on their high scores on a college entrance exam. The program is run by the College Board, which administers the SAT.

Semifinalist status has long been recognized as a marker of academic excellence. To achieve semifinalist status, the students had to earn among the nation’s highest scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). This year more than 1.5 million students took the college entrance exam, with only 16,000 earning semifinalist status, placing them among the top one percent of high school seniors in the nation who took the exam. National Merit semifinalists are highly recruited by the nation’s colleges and universities.

“It's an honor to be one of the 16,000 chosen to be a semifinalist,” said Triplett. “My father works for an internet service provider as a service technician and my mother works for an eye doctor as an ophthalmic technician in Gainesville. They are both very proud and share my academic achievements with the rest of our family,” she said.

“In order to become a finalist, you have to apply,” she said. I'm hoping to get that distinction. It can really help with scholarships. College is costly and I intend to go to graduate school so to have some of my undergraduate degree covered by scholarships would help me out quite a bit,” she said.

Triplett, who will graduate June 2016, wants to get her undergraduate degree in science and nursing. Her graduate school options are still open, but her undergraduate degree will qualify her to go into advanced practice nursing or to become a nurse anesthetist, a nurse practitioner, a physicians assistant or even apply to medical school.

In addition to Triplett, 25 others were named in Alachua County. Buchholz High School has 11 of this year’s semifinalists. Nine of the district’s semifinalists attend Eastside High School and five are students at Gainesville High School.

The students named semifinalists are now eligible to become National Merit Finalists. In addition to earning high SAT scores, the students must also have high grades, teacher recommendations and write an essay to achieve finalist status. Finalists will be announced in the spring and are eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarships provided by businesses, colleges, universities and other organizations.

This year’s semifinalists in addition to Tiffany Triplett of Santa Fe High School are Christopher Campo, Tawhid Khan, Elijah Killingsworth, Eugene Kim, Kim-Anh Nguyen, Marie Shiau, Joanna Song, Thor Stead, Harish Vemuri, Elizabeth Woodward and Jason Zhang of Buchholz High School; Celena Dong, Amber Gillette, Marisa Hobert, Sahar Kaleem, Stephanie Lampotang, Dacheng Li, Patrick Rao, Tanner Ropp and Risham Sidhu of Eastside High School; and Thomas Kemp, Logan Locascio, William Reneke, Elizabeth Scott and Alexander Shuping of Gainesville High School.

Four Eastside students, two Gainesville High students and three Buchholz students were also honored in the National Hispanic Recognition Program, which is also coordinated by the College Board and based on high PSAT/NMSQT scores. They are Marisa Hobert, Taylor Kyes, Luz Rosales and Neil Hare of Eastside High School, Thomas Kemp and William Reneke of Gainesville High School and Dupee Spencer, Elijah Killingsworth and Thor Stead of Buchholz High School. They are among the 5,000 top scorers of the 250,000 Hispanic/Latino students who took the test.

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