SHS students earn ‘Merit’ honors

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(Photo by Mary Malone) Cienna Roget, left, a 16-year-old Sandpoint High School senior, was named a semi-finalist in the National Merit Scholarship program. Three more Sandpoint High School students were commended in the program as well: Hannah Davidson, Jenai Archer and Ron Korn.

SANDPOINT — Not only is Cienna Roget the youngest student in the Sandpoint High School senior class, the 16-year-old was recently named a semi-finalist in the National Merit Scholarship program, putting her in the top 1 percent of students in the nation.

Three more Sandpoint High School students were commended by the National Merit Scholarship program for their impressive scores on the PSAT as well — Ron Korn, Jenai Archer and Hannah Davidson.

"I know it's a lot of hard work and you guys have really dedicated yourselves," SHS Principal Tom Albertson told the teens. "You guys are wonderful students and you make Sandpoint High School very proud."

Out of more than 1.6 million juniors across more than 22,000 schools in the nation who entered the competition by taking the qualifying PSAT last year, 16,000 students were named National Merit semi-finalists. About 34,000 students in the nation were commended for their academic promise, putting Korn, Archer and Davidson in the top 50,000 of the 1.6 million.

"I don't want to say I wasn't surprised," Roget said. "I was surprised, but I had previously gotten the National Hispanic Recognition for being in the top 2.5 percent of all hispanics in the nation."

The College Board's National Hispanic Recognition program is an academic honor, also measured by the PSAT scores of high school juniors, so she knew she scored high on the test.

"Her dad and I are super excited," said Roget's mom, Mindy Roget. "We are so proud of her, especially because she skipped a grade, and she has just worked incredibly hard since the first grade — It's great to see her get rewarded for all her hard work."

When she was 7 years old, Cienna Roget underwent brain surgery for what the doctors originally thought was a tumor on her pituitary gland, but turned out to be an infection, her mom said. She got so far ahead in her schoolwork during the time she spent at home, she actually skipped the first grade and went straight to second.

"It impacted me because I felt like I had to prove myself," Roget said. "When you are injured, people always treat you a little bit differently even if they aren't trying to; especially skipping a grade right after, I felt like I needed to prove myself by succeeding because I was the youngest in my class. So I usually would push myself — I was mostly self-motivated to succeed in school."

Although she said her first choice of a college is the University of Southern California, Roget spent the 2017 summer at Stanford University for a summer session.

The opportunity came up when she received a grant from Panhandle Alliance for Education. She is keeping her choice of a major open at this time, she said, but she does enjoy math. She also works on the school newspaper and enjoys journalism and graphic design. She recently started a job managing social media for a fashion blogger out of Denver, Colo.

Archer, 17, said her goal would be to attend Yale University, and she has yet to decide on a major as well. Most likely, she said, she will do something along the lines of biology — genetics in particular.

"Whatever I do, I'm going to write novels in my spare time," Archer said. "If that turns out well for me, I might just be a novelist full time."

Along with biology and writing, she also enjoys art, reading and acting. Archer recently landed a part in a "Shrek" musical.

As for the National Merit program, Archer said she did a lot better on her SAT score than her PSAT, so she was excited to learn she was a commended student.

"I didn't think I'd make it this far," she said. "I'm very happy, but just really surprised."

Korn and Davidson were also surprised to receive their letters of commendation.

"I am happy and excited," Davidson said.

The 17-year-old is looking to attend Brigham Young University or Utah State. In the past year, she said, her interests have leaned toward science, but she wasn't sure which direction she will go when it comes to a major in college. 

"I really like my environmental science class," she said, adding that she also enjoys biochemistry.

Davidson said she enjoys art and has also been on the SHS cross country and track teams since freshman year.

Korn recently acquired his pilot's license through the North Idaho High School Aerospace program and has taken two solo flights. The 18-year-old said he taught himself to work on cars at an early age, so when he discovered NIHSA's ACES Aviation Workshop, he thought he would try it out. He also enjoys cybersecurity and is a member of the SHS CyberPatriot team.

With his technology experience, Korn spent the summer as an intern in the Lake Pend Oreille School District's technology department.

"There was a lot of good experience there, which was kind of made possible from doing all of the IT classes that we have here (at SHS) and all of the certifications that I was able to get," Korn said.

Because of his interest in aviation, Korn plans to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona and study aerospace engineering.

There is also an Embry-Riddle in Florida, but he said the Arizona institution offers cybersecurity classes as well, which he plans to take as a minor.

The one teacher Korn said has influenced him throughout his schooling is Alex Gray, CTE department chair and information systems technology instructor at SHS.

"He is willing to go above and beyond for pretty much anyone willing to put in the time," Korn said.

For Roget, with her love of math, the teacher who had the biggest influence on her was Wendy Auld, who pushed her to take AP statistics as a sophomore.

"She definitely was one of my favorite math teachers," Roget said. "I've alway liked math, but she definitely pushed me to push myself harder."

Archer and Davidson couldn't decide on just one teacher each. Archer said she liked all her teachers, but named SHS English teachers John Search and Barbara Crumb, and science teacher Jim Barton, who helped spark her interest in biology.

Davidson said SHS science teacher Mamie Brubaker and art teacher Heather Guthrie were her biggest influences.

To become a finalist in the program, semi-finalists and their high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, with information about the semi-finalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. Semi-finalists are required to 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 PSAT test.

Finalists will compete for three types of scholarships offered in the spring. Each finalist has an opportunity to earn one of 2,500 scholarships in the amount of $2,500 that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 230 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria. 

In addition, about 190 colleges and universities are expected to finance 4,000 college-sponsored scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

The University of Idaho, for example, has historically awarded National Merit students a full-ride scholarship.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1955, operating without government assistance.

Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 420 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence, according to a recent statement by NMSC.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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