BE’s Wagner shocked to be national merit semifinalist

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By Alex Wimsatt

  MOUNT WASHINGTON – Embarking on her final semester at the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, Mount Washington native and former Bullitt East High School student Kelsey Wagner, 17, has an impressive academic resume and she recently added another item to her list of achievements.

Wagner was selected as a semifinalist in the 2011 National Merit Scholarship Program, a prestigious honor which recognizes America’s most exceptional students and opens opportunities to exclusive scholarship programs. 

She was among more than 1.5 million students who competed for the chance to be chosen as National Merit Scholars.

After taking the 2009 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which measures students’ aptitude in math, critical reasoning and writing, Wagner became a semifinalist as one of the 16,000 highest scoring entrants. 

Wagner was surprised when she found out she had scored well enough to be a semifinalist in the program, mostly because she had done nothing to prepare for the test except get a good night sleep and eat breakfast prior to the exam.

“I totally didn’t expect it at all,” she said.

As a semifinalist Wagner represents less than 1 percent of the nation’s graduating high school seniors, according to National Merit Scholarship Corporation public information coordinator Katie Williamsen.

“It’s a very elite group of students,” Williamsen said.

To be considered for National Merit Scholarship finalist, Wagner must meet additional standards and she had to fulfill several requirements, including having a record of high academic performance in college preparatory course work, submitting SAT scores that confirm PSAT performance, and she had to be fully endorsed and recommended by a high school official.

Next month The National Merit Scholarship Corporation will begin announcing the 8,100 finalists and while Wagner said she would be honored to be selected, she’s not expecting anything.

“I’m crossing each bridge as I come to it,” she said.

“I’ve come this far…I’m very proud of myself to be honest.”

Wagner’s road from Bullitt East student to National Merit Scholar semifinalist began when she got the opportunity to attend the Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. There she was encouraged to take the National Merit qualifying test. 

Gatton Academy assistant director Corey Alderdice said it took a remarkable score to be selected as a semifinalist, adding that Wagner’s score was exceptional.

Alderdice went on to say that Wagner’s intelligence made her an asset to the academy, commenting that she possessed qualities rarely seen in most high school students. 

“She embodies what makes Gatton so special and so unique,” Alderdice said. 

“She exhibits traits any teacher would be proud to see in their students.”

Upon her graduation next year, Wagner will not only receive a diploma from Bullitt County Public Schools for her high school coursework at Bullitt East and Gatton Academy, she will also have at least 60 college credit hours from her college coursework at WKU, which she will apply toward furthering her post-secondary education.

Wagner was unsure of where she would finish her undergraduate coursework, but she has considered studying equine veterinary medicine.

Before going away to the Gatton Academy, Wagner worked at a local stable where she fell in love with horses.

She has considered attending the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, the University of Findlay in Ohio and Auburn, but ultimately she will decide on a school that has an equine veterinary program.

When Wagner’s not sitting in class or studying, she keeps busy with a long list of extracurricular activities, which includes academic team, Girl Scouts, serving as an ambassador for Gatton Academy and theater. She even started a dance team at Gatton Academy, which she leads as captain. 

In her down time she enjoys horseback riding, hanging out with her friends at the academy and drawing.