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Skaggs named National Merit Semifinalist
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Skaggs named National Merit Semifinalist

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Braden Skaggs

Braden Skaggs

Students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies are recognized every year by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

This year, a West County High School student’s name has been added to the list of National Merit Semifinalists – senior Braden Skaggs.

Skaggs, of Leadwood, is one of 16,000 Semifinalists nationwide who earned this special achievement in the 66th annual scholarship program.

He recently learned he had been recognized when WCHS Counselor Andrea Simily informed him of this exciting news.

“Mrs. Simily called me to her office and gave me the letter,” he said. “I felt very accomplished when she informed me of this honor.”

To have a chance at earning a National Merit Scholarship, Skaggs said he had to tell Simily that he wanted to take the PSAT (the preliminary SAT).

“Anyone who decided to take it was taken out of class for about the first four hours of the day.”

He said students' scores determined whether they would be named a semifinalist or achieve an honorable mention.

Becoming a National Merit Finalist is competitive and requires a top score on the PSAT. Although the score varies from state to state, most students must earn a score above 1400 out of a total of 1520 to qualify as a semifinalist.

These academically-talented seniors now have the opportunity to continue in the competition to earn one of the 7,500 scholarships valued at more than $30 million. Finalists are selected to receive a Merit scholarship between March and June.

Winning a National Merit Scholarship or even being a semifinalist is prestigious. Some colleges even boast about the number of National Merit Scholars they enroll.

NMSC’s goals have remained constant since the not-for-profit organization began:

  • to identify and honor academically talented U.S. high school students
  • to stimulate increased support for their education
  • to provide efficient and effective program management for organizations who wish to sponsor college undergraduate scholarships

Through these endeavors, NMSC has earned a reputation for quality and integrity.

Since the NMSC was founded in 1955, it as recognized more than 3.3 million high school students. More than 430,000 scholarships worth in excess of $1.7 billion have been awarded.

Skaggs said his parents have strongly encouraged and supported him in achieving his goals during his education.

“My parents have always pushed me to try for that next level in academics,” he said.

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Others have also influenced Skaggs’ successes.

Simily said Skaggs is an exceptional student who is highly intelligent and has a schedule full of honors and college courses. He is currently taking an advanced class on Mineral Area College’s campus as well.

“Not only does Braden excel academically, he also excels musically,” she said. “He’s a member of our concert choir and has attained many awards in that area of his educational career as well.”

She said the staff is proud of Skaggs because he is a well-rounded model student and sets the bar high.

“I can’t wait to see where his road takes him,” said Simily. “With his natural gifts and work ethic, he is sure to go far.”

Principal Levi Rawson said Skaggs is a very intelligent and excellent student.

“We are happy for an very proud of Braden and his accomplishments of becoming a semifinalist,” he said. “We are excited to see what Braden is able to accomplish not only in high school but in his future as well.”

WCHS teacher Barb Steel said Skaggs’ honor is “a district honor and speaks highly of the type of student Braden is and the quality of education he has received at West County.”

Tina Richards, WCHS English teacher and senior class sponsor, said Skaggs is “very intuitive, very outspoken--but not in a bad way, and very productive in that he always finishes whatever task I ask him to do.”

She said Skaggs is the type of student one can have a “mindful conversation with about the strangest things but not be upset with that because, in the end, you probably learned something from him.”

Skaggs is planning to major in computer science or software engineering. He is interested in a few universities: Washington University, Iowa State, California Institute of Technology or Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He has been a member of National Honor Society for the last two years and co-captain or teammate of Scholar Bowl for the last three years. In addition, he has been part of Robotics as well as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Bible Dawgs.

He has also earned honors in choir during the last three years of high school.

Skaggs is currently ranked second in his class and has been recognized in the top 10% of his grade for the last three years.

In addition, he has attended and earned awards at the Mineral Area College Math Competition and the ACES Academic Competition.

Skaggs has volunteered as a teen worker at a children’s camp during past summers and assisted at several National Honor Society community-service projects. He also worked at PRC for a church service project and went on mission trips to Rolla and Kentucky as a youth worker.

He also enjoys singing in his church’s youth choir at Fellowship Free Will Baptist Church in Park Hills.

Skaggs is the son of Jo Nell Link and Bill Skaggs. He has two siblings, Hannah and Jared.

Pam Clifton is a contributing writer for the Daily Journal

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