Five Brainerd lakes area high school seniors were named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists along with 16,000 other students nationwide.
The students who were honored are Kirstin Dunham and Rob Ocel, who attend Brainerd High School; Crystal Hamling and Tessa Reck, who attend Staples-Motley High School; and Chantell Siltman, who attends Pequot Lakes High School.
Roughly half of the semifinalists will win National Merit Scholarship awards and will be designated as a Merit Scholar. There are 8,000 Merit Scholarship awards, worth $30 million that will be offered next spring.
The semifinalists were chosen based on their PSAT test results, which they took as juniors. The semifinalists represent less than 1 percent of each state's high school seniors.
To become a finalist, semifinalists must have a record of high academic performance, be endorsed and recommended by their school principal and earn SAT scores that confirm their earlier qualifying test performance. The semifinalist and a school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes the student's self-descriptive essay and information about their participation and leadership in school and community activities.
Dunham, the daughter of Pam Pruitt of Brainerd and Keith Dunham of Forest Lake, plans to attend college and major in political science. She said she would like to pursue a career in politics or international relations. She is looking at 10 schools in the United States and her top three schools are Georgetown, Yale and Harvard.
Dunham is involved in debate, speech, Knowledge Bowl, Student Congress, Key Club, German Club, band, tae kwon do and she volunteers at Crossing Arts Alliance.
Ocel, the son of Mark and Diane Ocel of Brainerd, plans to major in computer engineering. He is involved in debate, Knowledge Bowl, German Club and golf.
Hamling, the daughter of Phil and Ana Miller of rural Browerville and the late Jerry Hamling, plans to major in international relations or politics. She is looking at three colleges -- Harvard, William Mary and Dartmouth.
Hamling is president of the student council, was a German exchange student, was named Miss Teen of Minnesota, is a church worship team leader and a dance instructor. She also is involved in symphonic band, Sparks program, National Honor Society, piano, choir, ensemble, fall play and Dollars for Scholars program.
Reck, the daughter of Jerry and Jane Reck of Staples, plans to major in journalism, public relations or business marketing. Her top schools she is looking at are the University of St. Thomas and Northern Michigan.
Reck is involved in Youth as Resources, fall play, speech, bell choir, symphonic band, Sparks program, National Honor Society, a confirmation instructor, the editor of the school newspaper and volunteers as a sports writer at Staples World.
Siltman, the daughter of Ricky and Debbie Siltman of Jenkins, is undecided on a major. She is involved in the Science Club, pep and concert band, National Honor Society, Knowledge Bowl, serves on various committees at her church and tutors students.
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