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Fort Smith Schools Students Named 2022 National Merit® Scholarship Semifinalists

Three students from Fort Smith Public Schools have been named Semifinalists in the 2022 National Merit® Scholarship Program by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). 

  • Jedidiah Lightner, Southside High School
    • Son of Roger and Trish Lightner 
  • Emma Paulus, Southside High School 
    • Daughter of Dr. David and Heather Paulus 
  • Leen Samman, Southside High School
    •  Daughter of Zaki and Kefah Samman 

2022 National Merit FSPS

There are approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 67th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists represent less than 1% of U.S. high school seniors.

Lightner, Paulus, and Samman will have an opportunity to become finalists, continuing in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30 million. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. About 94 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and approximately half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

“Jedidiah, Emma, and Leen have exhibited traits of a highly effective student to have received such an honor.  I am very proud of these students and look forward to supporting them in their accomplishments,” said Dr. Tony Jones, Director of Secondary Education, Fort Smith Public Schools.

“I am so very proud of these students. Their performance on the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a testament to their work ethic and the efforts of their teachers. I am excited about the possibilities that the National Merit Scholarship process will present each of them. We will continue to provide these students with the support they need to be successful as they continue this pursuit,” said Mr. Jeff Prewitt, Southside High School Principal. 

"I'm thankful for this incredible opportunity. It's amazing to see all of the studying and preparation not only for this test, but throughout my academic career, pay off, and I'm grateful to all the teachers and peers for helping me reach this accomplishment,” said Jedidiah Lightner.

“I am incredibly excited to be a National Merit Semifinalist. I am thankful for my parents and my teachers throughout my educational journey who helped me achieve this goal. They poured into me and motivated me to always do my best,” said Emma Paulus. 

“Getting an opportunity like this makes me feel like everything I did actually paid off. Regardless of whether one reaches National Merit Finalist status or not, this whole process proves the hard work of you, your teachers, and how aiming high can help you achieve so much more than you thought,” said Leen Samman.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalists’ 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.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2022 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July.

Read more: Semifinalists in the 2022 National Merit® Scholarship Program September 15, 2021 Announcement