Nine Rockhurst High School seniors have been announced as National Merit Semifinalists. They are (pictured left to right, between Fr. Principal Vincent Giacabazi, SJ, and President David Laughlin): Caleb Dawson '24, Cole Southard '24, Eli Manis '24, Brant Willis '24, Cielo Tschantret '24, Ian Morgan '24, Trevor Murphy '24, Andrew Puthumana '24, and Joe Hudak '24.
More than 1.3 million juniors entered the 2024 competition last school year by taking the 2022 PSAT, which serves as the initial screen for program entrants. Around 50,000 earned the highest index score to qualify for National Merit Scholarship Program recognition. Of those top students, approximately one-third, or about 16,000, are named as Semifinalists.
Looking forward to February, some 15,000 Semifinalists will be notified that they have been selected to Finalist standing.
Caleb Dawson on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
“To me, this selection helps give me confidence in my academic abilities and showed that my hard work paid off.
Right now I am working through the college application process. I would like to be on a Pre-Med tack in hopes of becoming a doctor in the future.
My favorite thing about Rockhurst is the community. Most guys here really want to see their classmates succeed and are there to help others out. As for co-curriculars, I am in Speech & Debate, Student Government Association (SGA), National Honors Society (NHS), Freshman Retreat as group leader, and will lead a Kairos Retreat in the coming months.”
Joe Hudak on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
"This honor means many things to me. Not only does it mean that I achieved a great academic honor, it also means that the work I’ve put in during my time at Rockhurst has paid off. With the help of my teachers, I have grown enough to achieve being a National Merit Semifinalist, and my future has improved because of it. As one of nine students given the honor, I am proud to represent Rockhurst on a national level.
Although I have not decided on a college, I plan to major in Mechanical Engineering, with a possibility of getting a second major in Business. After attending college, I hope to work in the automotive industry or something similar.
At Rockhurst, I love the brotherhood of all the students, competitive athletics, and the many opportunities to go on service trips. Going to football games and experiencing the pep rallies are among the best activities the whole school participates in and the Rockhurst brotherhood truly stands out. As a member of the varsity lacrosse team, I enjoy playing with my teammates and bringing home championships multiple years in a row. Finally, I appreciate the opportunity Rockhurst gives the students to grow. Going on TIE Tennessee and other service projects, I have grown as a person and grown closer to the other students on the trips with me."
Eli Manis on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
“The National Merit Semifinalist selection is extremely important to me because it exemplifies all my efforts in both academics and extracurricular activities.
After Rockhurst, I plan on attending a four-year university and majoring in Engineering.
My favorite part about Rockhurst is the support I get from my classmates and teachers. I’ve also enjoyed representing Rockhurst at the World Championship Robotics competition twice, and I look forward to this year’s season.
I’m grateful for the Rockhurst teachers and staff who gave me the support which enabled me to achieve academic success.”
Ian Morgan on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
“This distinction really means a lot. It’s a tremendous honor that displays all the hard work I’ve put in to be where I am now, and it’s an honor that will only motivate me to work even harder in college and beyond.
I definitely want to go to college and study Engineering, especially computer or electrical. For my career, however, I would love to combine my degree with my passion for music and work in between those fields.
One of my favorite things about Rockhurst is the people, from my teachers to coaches and everybody else. I know everyone has my back and is working hard to see my succeed, both inside and outside the classroom. The past two years I have been involved in the Software Engineering club, and a highlight of my year is when we get to go compete in coding competitions, where I’m able to work with my friends and create programs to solve a puzzle.”
Trevor Murphy on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
“Being chosen as a National Merit Semifinalist is a great honor. The selection concludes over a year of hard work preparing for standardized testing, and brings me to the next point in my college journey. Being selected for this award is a testament to the time I have spent in my studies throughout my time at Rockhurst.
While I am not sure which school I will attend yet, I am looking into coastal Engineering schools. I plan to study Mechanical Engineering with a focus in aerospace. Currently on my list are schools such as MIT, Stanford, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and others. Ultimately, I would like to work to design satellites for long-range space missions.
My favorite thing about Rockhurst is the learning community which supports individual scholars while remaining a tight-knit group. Rockhurst's focus on a high-quality education has likely been the single greatest contribution to where I am today. Within the school community, I am involved with the Technical Theater group, along with the Drum Line. Outside of school, I am an Eagle Scout and actively work in the event production industry.”
Andrew Puthumana on his National Merit selection:
"Being named a National Merit Semifinalist symbolizes all of the hard work both inside and out of the classroom that I'm thankful to have put in during my time at Rockhurst, and I'm truly honored to be standing on the shoulders of so many other giants who have come before me and have similarly experienced this extremely unique distinction.
While I am undecided on a college at this point in the admissions and college application process, I'm looking forward to reaching a decision and reviewing my options by the end of the year. As for studies, I'm interested in pursuing the field of Finance during college, and I'm looking towards a long-term career in this field, too. Ultimately, I just want to continue to pursue my passion of being able to connect with others in whatever field or profession I end up in.
My favorite things about Rockhurst start first and foremost with the people. Whether it be my peers who I've gotten to grow up alongside over the course of my time here, the lifelong friends that I've made, the dedicated faculty who enhance the student experience to the fullest, to our unique brotherhood — propelled by our Jesuits and Ignatian identity — that promotes mentorship, a tight-knit community like no other, and a total formation for all who are involved.
As for activities, I'm grateful to be involved with a lot here in our community! I've been a part of activities like Speech and Debate, clubs like our Student Diversity Union and Future Docklets Club, and played a role in the executive council of our Student Government and as president of our NHS chapter. I'm especially thankful for the opportunity to have led or organized some of our Freshman programming, such as leading our Freshman Brothers Program, chairing this year's Freshman Retreat, or organizing our Finals Freshman Stress Busters Program! Finally, I'm honored to have represented Rockhurst outside of just our school community, not only being a part of wonderful community organizations like St. Jude's GoldOut KC, GlobalTies KC, or volunteering at Kansas City Hospice House, but also to be given the opportunity to represent Rockhurst on a larger stage with programs like Missouri Scholars Academy or Missouri Boys State as well.
Our class was told at our Freshman Orientation that "Rockhurst, in the end, depends on what you put into it." To me, this idea continues to drive me forward, and I feel that this achievement largely reflects how that sentiment has pushed me throughout my time at Rockhurst. From quietly studying in the Learning Commons to loudly screaming as a Yell Leader to our community during Friday night football games, simply put, each and every day here at Rockhurst is special, and there's absolutely nothing at all I'd trade that experience for."
Cole Southard on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
“This National Merit Semifinalist selection means that all my hard work up to this point is putting me on the right track. It is a great encouragement and reminder of what I am capable of. It means that the guidance from my parents and teachers has paid off and will continue to down the line.
After I graduate from Rockhurst, I plan to go into Chemical Engineering and minor in Finance.
My favorite thing about Rockhurst is the vast support from teachers, counselors, and just about anyone else. The people here want you to succeed, and that is evident in the day-to-day life at Rockhurst. I also appreciate that the school is not solely focused on academic success - rather, it builds you as a person and as a "man for others." The sense of community here is awesome and it really feels like a brotherhood.
I would like to thank my family, teachers, and other advisors for the love and support that made this possible. Your guidance means the world to me and I will continue to put it to good use.”
Cielo Tschantret on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
"The National Merit Scholarship is a competitive award for which I’m glad to have been selected.
After Rockhurst, I will attend University of Pennsylvania and play for their soccer team. Ideally, I will pursue a career in professional soccer. If this falls through, I plan to work in STEM.
My favorite thing about Rockhurst is hanging out with my friends and talking with the teachers."
Brant Willis on his National Merit Semifinalist selection:
“The Semifinalist selection is very important to me because affordability is a major factor in my college decisions and becoming a Finalist would open the door to many scholarship opportunities.
After Rockhurst, I hope to study Computer Science or Computer Engineering at a university. Long-term, I would like to work as a software engineer, game developer, or computer engineer.
I like how passionate Rockhurst’s teachers are about the subjects they teach. I also like the wide variety of STEM courses available at Rockhurst.
I’m involved with the Architecture/Engineering Club, as well as the Tabletop Gaming Club.”