SANDPOINT — When Sandpoint High School senior Cienna Roget was called into the office on Monday, the notice simply stated, "Now, please."
She found SHS Principal Tom Albertson waiting for her, and after briefly wondering what was wrong, she was shocked to discover her parents hiding behind the door to congratulate her for becoming a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
"I was so surprised — It was amazing," Roget said.
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, Roget was among the 16,000 students named National Merit semi-finalists in September.
Of the 16,000, approximately 15,000 advanced to finalist level.
"It's an incredible honor and she has worked really hard," said Jeralyn Mire, SHS postsecondary counselor.
"She has really done what she needed to do to be successful. It's and honor for our school and for her to named as a finalist ... And she is just a delight to work with."
Recently turning 17, Roget is the youngest in her class. When she was 7 years old, Roget underwent brain surgery after developing an infection. She got so far ahead in her schoolwork during the time she spent at home, she skipped the first grade and went straight to second. Being the youngest of her peers, however, she told the Daily Bee during an interview in September that she has always felt the need to prove herself academically.
"I was mostly self-motivated to succeed in school," she said.
She now has a 4.4 weighted GPA, proving her academic success.
Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered this spring, according to a statement released by National Merit officials in September.
Each finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 230 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 190 colleges and universities are expected to finance about 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.
National Merit Scholarship winners of 2018 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July, according to the statement.
For finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program, it is up to the college or university to offer the student a scholarship, so every school offers different amounts, if anything. University of Idaho, for example, has historically given National Merit students full-ride scholarships.
Roget said her first choice for a school, even prior to being named a National Merit finalist, is the University of Southern California.
"They give (National Merit finalists) half tuition automatically," Roget said, which only increased her desire to attend the school. "I am really hoping to get in. Half tuition is always really great."
The cost to attend USC is about $60,000 per year, she said, so receivng half tuition would help tremendously. She also plans to apply for as many local scholarships as possible to help pay for tuition, she said. She has been the SHS president of the National Honor Society for two years, so she is applying for a scholarship there as well.
She is keeping her choice of a major open at this time, she said. She enjoys journalism, graphic design and math, so she is leaning toward marketing or advertising.
"I think it would be a good fit," she said.
Roget works on the school newspaper, as well as managing social media for a fashion blogger out of Denver, Colo.
Roget has also been honored by the College Board's National Hispanic Recognition program for being in the top 2.5 percent of all hispanics in the nation.
This academic award is also measured by the PSAT scores of high school juniors.
Mire said SHS does a "great job" of helping the students succeed in the PSATs by helping students prepare. And while the state funds the test for sophomores, the school pays for students to take it as freshmen and juniors as well.
"We feel that we really encourage our students to have this opportunity, regardless of what type of postsecondary program they are interested in after high school," Mire said.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.