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National Merit Semifinalists at KPS
Linda Mah
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National Merit Semifinalists at KPS

Students Move on in Scholarship Competition

Four Kalamazoo Public Schools students have been named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition.


The semifinalists from Loy Norrix High School are Samuel Ratliff, Ava Wood and Lachlan Woods. The semifinalist from Kalamazoo Central is Daniel Whitcomb.

Approximately 16,000 semifinalists were named in the 62nd annual competition and will have the opportunity to compete for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million. Juniors are entered into the program based on their scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

About 90 percent of the semifinalists become finalists. To become a finalist, students or their schools must submit an application, in which they provide information about his or her academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. Students must have an outstanding academic record, receive recommendations from a school official, write an essay and score well on the SAT.

About half of the finalists win National Merit Scholarships, which include National Merit Scholarships, corporate-sponsored scholarships and college-sponsored scholarships.

Below are brief biographies of this year’s KPS semifinalists:

Sam Ratliff, a senior at KAMSC and Loy Norrix, is a member of the National Honor Society as well as marching and jazz bands where he plays alto saxophone.
A KAMSC Computer Programing Code Warrior, American Chemical Society Scholarship finalist, Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition contestant, and an American Computer Science League Honoree. He’s also worked as a KAMSC Summer Program Teaching Assistant.
Sam studies Uechi-Ryu at Kalamazoo’s Okinawan Karate Academy and holds the rank of second-degree black belt. Sam enjoys the complexities of progressive rock and jazz music (Rush, Yes, ELP, Coleman Hawkins, Snarky Puppy) and is a member of the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock as a saxophonist, vocalist and keyboardist.
He’s enjoyed teachers at KPS and KAMSC who promote engaged classrooms and challenging ideas. He plans to study engineering, math or physics in college along with music.

Lachlan Woods is a senior at Loy Norrix High School and KAMSC. He is also currently dual enrolled at WMU. He participated in the Academically Talented Youth Program English program at Western Michigan University for three years and has completed seven AP classes to date.
He has played varsity tennis for four years and was the captain for the past two years. Lachlan joined the Norrix dive team last year earning a JV letter. He participated in forensics during his freshman year.
He is in the final stage of earning his Eagle Scout awaiting the board of review process.
He hopes to double major in college in a science and humanities as he is undecided on his career path.

Ava Wood is a senior at Loy Norrix High School and KAMSC. She has attained Code Warrior status as a member of the KAMSC Computer Science team. As part of the team, she represented KAMSC at the 2016 American Computer Science League All-Star International Invitational and won first place at the 2016 Saginaw Valley ACM High School Programming Contest. She is a three-time KAMSC academic medallion winner.
This summer she completed a weeklong aeronautic engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and she is a past scholarship winner for the Michigan Tech Women in Computer Science camp.
She is a member of the Loy Norrix women’s varsity soccer and golf teams and the National Honor Society. She is the teen advisory board president for Open Roads, a program which promotes social and educational skills through a bike building curriculum. She is a violinist and chamber music musician and a past member of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra. In her spare time, she has a YouTube channel that explores conspiracy theories.

Daniel Whitcomb is a third generation Maroon Giant. He has taken 10 AP classes, and is taking three more this year. He has also taken classes through WMU's Academically Talented Youth Program for five years. In his sophomore year, Daniel won first prize in the Kalamazoo Chapter of the American Chemical Society's Competitive Exam for high schoolers.
While at Kalamazoo Central, Daniel has participated in marching band, cross country, National Honor Society, forensics, and drama, playing Mr. Gilmer in KC's 2015 production of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” He has also been involved in Boy Scouts of America, and has helped with many different ministries at Westwood United Methodist Church, including four work trips with the Appalachia Service Project.

Cutline: Clockwise from the top left, Lachlan Woods, Daniel Whitcomb, Samuel Ratliff, and Ava Wood.
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