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Whelan is National Merit semi-finalist

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By Ron Benningfield

A LaRue County High School senior, Evelyn Whelan, has been notified that she is a National Merit semi-finalist, the first student to earn the honor in the last several years at the school.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test which serves as an initial screen of about 1.5 million entrants each year.

In early September, about 16,000 students, or about one-third of the 50,000 high scorers, are notified that they have qualified as semi-finalists.

Kristi Wright, LCHS guidance counselor, said that, on average, the school has 20 sophomores and juniors to take PSAT each year, but only juniors are in the running for National Merit.   

When the school received the PSAT scores last school year, Wright was hopeful that Whelan’s scores were high enough to make her a semi-finalist. Those hopes were confirmed Sept. 8 when Whelan received a letter from National Merit staff informing her that she had made the semi-finalist list.

“I was surprised and happy to have made semi-finalist,” said Whelan.      

Wright was also thrilled with the student’s accomplishment.

“She not only has the academic giftedness, but she’s also one of the most genuine, sincere people I know,” said Wright. “She’s beyond her years with her sincerity and compassion towards others.”

Evelyn’s father, David, an electrical and plumbing contractor, and her mother, Beverly, an accountant, home schooled her through the eighth grade.

“She has always scored well on standardized tests, such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills which she took at home,” Whelan said of his 16-year-old daughter.  “Her mother grilled her on grammar, sentence structure and parts of speech for eight years.”

“Part of the focus of the ACT is on those things, and kids don’t get that much anymore,” he added.

Before deciding to have his daughter attend public high school, Whelan met with former principal Paul Mullins and Kelly Sandidge, director of student services, who assured him Evelyn would receive a good education at the school.

“Paul Mullins did a great job of putting good teachers together,” said Whelan. “It’s wonderful what’s available now and the quality of teachers there.”

Evelyn, who is active in her youth group at Hodgenville Pentecostal Church, wants to be in the healthcare field, perhaps as a registered nurse.

“In that field, a person comes into contact not only with those who seek them out, but with the patient’s families as well,” she said. “Helping other people is what I want to do.”

She and several other LCHS students are already working toward that goal as members of the first nursing assistant program class being offered through a partnership between the high school and Campbellsville University.

“Every nursing student must take this basic course,” said Whelan, who attends the class one period each school day at the Brockman Center in Hodgenville.

“We’re learning the proper way to take blood pressure, to wash our hands and other skills we’ll need as nurses.”

In November, she’ll take the SAT. Some 8,000 students who score high enough on it will be named National Merit finalists and be eligible for college scholarships.