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Portland High School Students Named as National Merit Semifinalists

Three Portland Public Schools students have been named as Semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program: Adrian Darlington, Caden Hemond and Matan Schoenfeld, all seniors at Portland High School.

The three PHS students now join other academically talented high school seniors nationwide who have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring. The National Merit Scholarship Program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

“Congratulations to Adrian, Caden and Matan for this academic achievement,” said Superintendent Ryan Scallon. “It is a credit not only to their diligence and perseverance but also to their teachers and others, including family, who support our students’ success. These students are exemplary of the high-quality education offered at our high schools. I commend them and wish them the best as they continue in this competition.”

The three students are among just 57 Maine seniors named as Semifinalists in the 2024 contest. They are among approximately 16,000 Semifinalists nationwide in this 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of Semifinalists in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

More than 1.3 million juniors entered the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2022 Preliminary SAT (PSAT)/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

Of the roughly 16,000 Semifinalists, more than 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. To reach the Finalist stage, 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 or ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

Students who reach the Finalist level will be notified in February of this designation. Of these Finalists, about half will go on to win a National Merit Scholarship and become National Merit Scholars.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2024. The National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and ending in July. These scholarship recipients will join nearly 375,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 49.8 percent of the district’s students are white and 50.2 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.