Three Shawnee High School seniors are among the nation’s elite when it comes to academics — and one student is looking to become a finalist in the national merit scholarship program.

Chris Chapman, Isabel Sanders and Stephen Whitmore received high honors after taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during their junior year.

The National Merit Scholarship program is a competition for recognition and college scholarships administered by a privately-funded not-for-profit organization, National Merit Scholarship Corporation.


Three Shawnee High School seniors are among the nation’s elite when it comes to academics — and one student is looking to become a finalist in the national merit scholarship program.
Chris Chapman, Isabel Sanders and Stephen Whitmore received high honors after taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during their junior year.
The National Merit Scholarship program is a competition for recognition and college scholarships administered by a privately-funded not-for-profit organization, National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
About 1.4 million students enter for a chance at recognition with 50,000 qualifying for recognition. The students then receive letters of commendation or become semifinalists, which 94 percent become finalists.
Of the SHS students, Whitmore is a semifinalist and will know if he is a finalist after January. Whitmore said he has to write an essay before the finalists are announced.
SHS Counselor Don Monroe said Whitmore’s standings are determined by the remainder of the process, including taking the SAT.
“It’s a big deal,” Monroe said. “It could mean a scholarship to pay for everything for four years.”
Whitmore said he plans to major in biochemistry and attend the University of Tulsa. He said the university has a good science department and a big national merit scholarship program. “That helps,” he said.
He said he’s always liked science and it’s a good field to work in because it’s always growing.
Sanders received the letter of commendation, which is the step before the semifinalist level. About 35,000 students are awarded the letter of commendation.
“It was good to know I was in there somewhere,” Sanders said, adding she would have liked to been a semifinalist, but she is glad to receive something.
Sanders said she has her list of potential schools narrowed down to five. She said she intends to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music in french horn performance.
Sanders said she has played the french horn for seven years and she has grown up with musical family.
“I thought it could just make a profession out of it,” she said.
Chapman is the recipient of the national Hispanic achiever award. The National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) was initiated in 1983 to identify outstanding Hispanic/Latino high school students and to share information about colleges and universities. In order to be eligible, students must be at least one-quarter Hispanic/Latino as defined by the NHRP, meet the minimum PSAT/NMSQT cutoff score for the state and achieve a minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement.
Chapman said he is undecided about his major and where he plans to attend college.
Monroe said Whitmore has the opportunity for a full-ride scholarship, but the other two students will have scholastic opportunities and will make them eligible for scholarships.
Monroe said Shawnee Schools have students who rank high on the PSAT each year, and some receive merit recognition.
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Amanda Gire may be reached at amanda.gire@news-star.com or at 214-3934.