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Ruston students earn National Merit honors

Cedar Creek School, RHS seniors named semifinalists
Sunday, September 17, 2023
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Representing Ruston High School as National Merit semifinalists are (from left) Thomas Rogers, Jodi Dunbar and Chaz Backhaus.

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Hayes Andrew Bridges represents Cedar Creek as a National Merit semifinalist.

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Bailey Anne Adams represents Cedar Creek as a National Merit semifinalist.

This year five students at Ruston schools have achieved the honor of being named semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit scholarship program.

Representing Cedar Creek School in the prestigious scholarship program are Bailey Anne Adams and Hayes Andrew Bridges, while Ruston High School had three semifinalists: Thomas Rogers, Jodi Dunbar and Chaz Backhaus.

Semifinalists represent less than 1% of high school seniors across the country who take the Preliminary SAT test. This year about 16,000 students advanced to this level.

These seniors will compete to be named Finalists and potentially win one of about 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million.

“We are very proud of these two students,” Cedar Creek Head of School Cindy Hampton said. “This is not an easy feat to accomplish. They are wonderful individuals who are involved in school activities as well as community activities, and we look forward to their continued accomplishments in this competition.”

Ruston High Principal Dan Gressett said it’s been many years since the school had three semifinalists, but he wasn’t shocked by the news.

“They’re amazing students to begin with, so it’s not surprise to me they’re National Merit Semifinalists,” he said. “Jodi got a 36 on her ACT last year, Thomas is involved in athletics for us as well as his grades, and Chaz does really well academically. We’re extremely proud of these three.”

Lincoln Parish Superintendent Ricky Durrett said having three National Merit semifinalists in the school system this year reflects well on the education taking place here.

“That’s quite an honor for those students and their families and the education they’ve gotten throughout the Lincoln Parish School system,” Durrett said. “ We’re real proud of their accomplishments and their family support through all of that. All the teachers who have taught them should share in some of that success as well.”

Semifinalists submit a scholarship application which includes academic record, participation in school and community service activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment and honors and awards received. Finalists are chosen from those criteria.