15 Named National Merit Semifinalists

First published in the Sept. 30 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

As students assembled Monday for a group photo, San Marino High School Principal Jason Kurtenbach noted the wide array of activities that were trumpeted across their T-shirts, polos and sweatshirts.
Fifteen seniors recently became semifinalists in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship program — the 67th in its rich history. However, this slice of the student body will likely never be emblazoned on a garment of clothing.
Kurtenbach and Assistant Principal Carlos Kassam-Clay didn’t join the group photo to allow the students to enjoy their moment in the spotlight..
“This isn’t about us,” Kurtenbach said. “We’ve had our time to shine. It’s about them — their hard work, their remarkable investment of time.”

The “them” to whom Kurtenbach referred are Chelsea An, Randy Cai, Dao Lin, Sophia Yao, Victor Yao, Marcus Chua, Zihao Wang, Lucas Chen, Marlene Ketelaar, Ziyuan Qu, Anya Tang, Yuxiang Zhang, Conner Sund, Amber Tang and Camdyn Wu, who have advanced to the next level of the program, where they remain in competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million.
The program selects 16,000 qualifying students nationwide to become semifinalists from the more than 1.5 million high school juniors who took the Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during the last academic year and earned scores that are among the highest in the state. The group represents less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors.
Merit Scholar selection is based on student skill, accomplishment and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Factors for consideration include outstanding academic record, endorsement of high school officials, essay and standardized college entrance test scores.
The group represents less than 1% of high school seniors in the United States and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. Approximately 90% of the students advance to become finalists. From the finalists, 7,500 will be announced in April 2021 as scholarship winners.
To become a finalist, the semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application in which they provide information about the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment and honors and awards received. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official and write an essay.
From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in February, they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.
Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2022. Every finalist will compete for one of the National Merit $2,500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis.
National Merit Scholarship winners of 2022 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July.

Now in his 25th year at The Tribune, Mitch Lehman is Editor and Sports Editor in addition to being the public address announcer for ten sports programs at San Marino High School. Mitch is one of only a handful in the community to receive the ‘Very Special Person Award’ from the San Marino PTA at the annual Founder’s Day ceremony, was acknowledged as a 'Terrific Titan' by the San Marino High School PTSA, was named an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of San Marino and received a National Honorary Merit Badge in Journalism from the Boy Scouts of America. He has received two independent Pulitzer Prize nominations and in the past three years, Mitch has won seven awards and is a thirteen-time finalist in the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. In 2015, the press box at Titan Stadium was re-named 'Lehman's Loft' in his honor. You can reach Mitch at

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