Cochran has all the keys to top career as National Merit Scholar

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By Stephen Thomas

 CEDAR GROVE - Like the many keys of the piano she plays at Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Hannah Cochran holds the keys to her educational future.

Hannah was selected a National Merit Scholar, representing the top one-half of one percent of the nation’s high school seniors.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation was established in 1955 as a non-profit, independent organization honoring academically talented high school students throughout the United States.

The second of five children, Hannah was raised as a homeschool student by parents Greg and Vickie. Greg is the Cedar Grove Baptist pastor.

Hannah showed a family appreciation to her educational success, praising her parents for teaching and her siblings for creating friendly rivalries.

“I’m really glad to have my parents teaching me,” she said. “They’ve really taken me as far as I wanted and they’ve pushed me and gave me the determination to work harder.”

Vickie said all of the children have done well with their schooling, with their oldest, Andrew, attending Asbury College. She credited Hannah for showing the most desire for her education.

“We knew National Merit was out there and hoped to achieve it,” said Vickie. “The child who is determined and wants it is the one who will grab it. I can push each child... but mostly it’s the child’s desire and effort. I think that’s why Hannah achieved this.”

Greg agreed, noting that Hannah started her desire to become an OB/GYN as early as age 10.

“She began planning toward it and took it to heart from that day forward,” he said. “She worked very hard to open the doors. Now I think it pays off.”

For Hannah, homeschool doesn’t mean learning everything at home: She job shadows with Dr. Casey Lewis, MD, at Pediatrics of Bullitt County.

Hannah also works at the Bullitt County YMCA with the youth sports programs. An avid soccer player in the Y program, Hannah recently joined the organization’s running team. Her personal best distance is 10 miles.

At church Hannah regularly performs on piano. She plays a vast range of songs from church hymns to classical tunes to Michael Buble.

“Playing helps me to think,” she said. “It’s relaxing to me.”

Last year Hannah had the opportunity to play twice with Jane and Gov. Steve Beshear in the audience.

“I played last August when they announced the renovation of the old Governor’s mansion,” said Hannah. “Mrs. Beshear was excited because her children was taking lessons on the same piano.”

When her hands aren’t on the piano keys, they are usually sewing. Lately Hannah has been sewing clothing items as a fundraiser to help her family adopt two children from Ethiopia.

“I like crafts and making things,” she said. “I have made my own clothes. I like to make something in one afternoon.”

In school Hannah learned four languages including Latin, Greek, French and Hebrew. Greg mentioned that Hannah was exposed to “classic” languages, ones that make up the foundation of words she’d need to learn in medical school.

When she finds spare time, Hannah maintains an online blog. The rest of her time is spent reading, preferably historical fiction. Her favorite books are “Anne of Green Gables” and “Dracula”.

On top of it all, Hannah earned a sport pilot license, allowing her to fly small crafts.

“In the event that I become a doctor and go on medical missions, I thought it would be helpful to know how to fly a plane,” she said.

Last summer Hannah was one of four homeschool students participating in the Governor Scholar program hosted at Murray State University. She enjoyed the opportunity enough to encourage all her friends to participate.

Hannah added that the Governor Scholar experience increased her intrigue to attend college away from home.

“I’m confident I want to branch out,” she said. “I might enjoy a bigger school. It will be very exciting to go to school in a state I’ve never been to.”

“College will offer new challenges, but she’ll do fine,” Greg added.

Hannah hopes to study chemistry in college along with attending medical school. She reviewed many schools nationally, with about 20 scrutinized further for possible selection based on their medical programs.

Harvard University remains Hannah’s top selection. She’ll soon learn whether or not she was accepted to attend. She has already received letters from other schools offering full tuition for earning National Merit.

Hannah is a very blessed individual, giving praise to God for all that she has accomplished. Being a homeschool student did not leave her with regrets.

“I’m very happy how things have turned out,” she said. “God was very gracious to give us this church. I have friends here, and I’ve enjoyed being here with my family.”