reprinted from The Star
Waterloo--DeKalb High School seniors Will Pierce and John Foster have much in common.
Both are academically talented and excel in science and math classes Both have participated in DeKalb High School band programs. They even have similar part-time jobs at local fast-food restaurants.
Now, they share the honor of being named semifinalists in the 59th annual National Merit Scholarship Program and have the opportunity to compete for 8,000 National Merit Scholarships worth about $35 million that will be offered next spring.
Pierce, of Waterloo, is involved in many Advanced Placement classes, especially in math and science, he said. In college, he plans to continue his studies in science, technology, engineering and math.
Outside of his studies, Pierce is involved in speech, Spell Bowl, Academic Super Bowl and robotics. He also enjoys independent projects in electronics and science fair. In previous years, he was involved in marching band and pep band, playing the baritone saxophone and tenor saxophone.
Pierce said he sees a connection between music and excelling in academics, as both require dedication.
When he graduates from DeKalb next year, Pierce will carry 67 college credits with him after successfully taking dual-credit classes in high school. He hopes to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology Purdue University or Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Pierce is the son of Diana and Charles Pierce.
Foster, of Auburn, has been in the DeKalb High School marching band since he was an eighth-grader and draws on the rigor instilled through marching band when approaching his studies.
He also is a member of the school's indoor drum line and has played in the high school jazz band. Outside school he is involved in music at Dayspring Community Church in Auburn, where his father is the executive pastor.
"At church, I play the drum set about once a month," he said "I also run the audio. It's one of the most fun things I get to do."
Like Pierce, Foster takes Advanced Placement and dual-credit classes. He expects to have 50 college credits when he graduates from high school.
"I'm not quite as studious as Will is," he said with a smile.
Foster is applying to the University of Michigan and Purdue University and is considering a degree in mechanical engineering and chemistry. He is the son of Jane and David foster.
To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will win National Merit Scholarships.
About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
To become a finalist, the semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, providing information about the semifinalists's academic record, participation in school and community activities demonstrated leadership and awards received. A 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 scores that confirm the student's earlier performance on the qualifying test.