“I’m honestly sort of surprised,” Cielo said. “I studied, but I really wasn’t expecting this. It is a great honor.”
Over 1.6 million juniors in about 22,000 high schools entered the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2017 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of United States high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
“We’re very proud of Jakob and the work he has done to earn this prestigious recognition,” Science Hill Principal Todd Barnett said. “This opportunity to advance to National Merit finalist, and the additional rewards available, represent his commitment to excellence, as well as our teachers’ commitment to pushing every student to reach their full potential.”
There are approximately 16,000 students across the U.S. who are National Merit semifinalists. Finalists for the award will be released in February.
Cielo, who enjoys books from the 1800s, said that he hopes to go on to the University of Tennessee. He said that he would like to begin a career in pharmacy because that would mix two fields he is passionate about — chemistry and the medical field. The rising senior is enrolled heavily in honors classes at Science Hill and he noted he thought that helped prepare him for becoming a National Merit semifinalist.