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An Elite Group

Nine Woodson High students named semifinalists in National Merit programs.

With its construction projects on the drawing board, W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax has achieved an academic honor to build on in the early part of the school year.

Woodson recently received word that eight of its seniors had earned semifinalist status in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Katherine Chastain, Amy Duong and Matthew Horne of Annandale; Robert Colby, Katie Hausler, Andrew Lobb and Sarah Christofaro of Fairfax; and Patrick Dorsey of Fairfax Station all have advanced to the semifinalist stage of the national competition. Another Fairfax Station resident, Ijeoma Iko, is a semifinalist in the National Achievement Program competition, which awards excellence among African American Students.

According to the National Merit Program, Woodson's total of nine students is the third largest in the state of Virginia this year, behind Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria and The Governor's School in Richmond.

Principal Robert Elliott was thrilled with the news.

"I think this says a lot of good things about the school," Elliot said. "This doesn't just happen if you don't have a dedicated community, hard-working students, and teachers who help students become the best they can be."

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for scholarships that began in 1995. Students enter the program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and their results on the exam determine how far they advance in the competition.

Of the 1.3 million entrants, 16,000 qualify for semifinalist status.

"I'm very happy, because it's a big achievement," said Hausler, who plays bass guitar and designed outfits for the school fashion show.

Elliott said many of the students are involved in a variety of activities, with six in either music or drama groups.

"These aren't just kids who are focused just on academics. They're the whole package," he said.

For Iko, gaining National Achievement semifinalist status was a chance to set a good example for her peers.

"I remember two years ago, the guy who got it … I kind of looked up to him," she said.

Four of the nine seniors also attended Canterbury Woods Elementary School in Fairfax, and Dorsey said he enjoyed the group of students he was with.

"I'm happy to be in this company, because everybody here is really smart," he said.

Of the semifinalists, 8,200 will receive word in the spring that they have received a merit scholarship. Elliott said the school also expects to learn it has over 30 students at Commended Student status.