Johnson honored during HCSD board meeting

An academically-talented senior at Harlan County High School was honored Nov. 19 during a Harlan County Board of Education meeting by Superintendent Brent Roark. Emerson Johnson was recently named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist for 2019-20 to make him one of only 16,000 students across the nation to advance toward the National Merit Scholarship.

Johnson, the son of Brent and Paula Laun Johnson, is part of an accomplished group of high school seniors to have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million to be awarded next spring.

Johnson has achieved an impressive 35 composite score on the ACT with a perfect score in two areas of the assessment. He is a member of the academic team, tennis team, National Honor Society, BETA Club, the GEAR Up program, Project Lead the Way and has received numerous academic accolades for his accomplishments.

Roark told the board what a tremendous accomplishment it is, “but he still has a few more steps to take.”

Johnson said to those attending the board meeting that he was honored to receive recognition and began to describe the difficulty to obtain the National Merit Scholarship, including an extensive application, tests and interview process.

“I wouldn’t have even known to take the test if it wasn’t for my mother,” Johnson said. “I am very grateful to my parents for their support and encouragement.”

There were more than 1.5 million juniors in some 21,000 high schools entered the 2020 merit scholarship program by taking preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This served as an initial screen of program entrants, according to a press release.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than one percent of high school seniors in the U.S. It includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

To become a finalist, the semifinalist and high school representatives must submit a detailed scholarship application. This provides information about the academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment and honors and awards received.

In addition, the semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT and ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

Finalists will be awarded three types of scholarships in the spring. These include $2,500 merit scholarships, corporate-sponsored merit scholarships and financial awards from colleges and universities.