Ashland High School has three finalists in the National Merit Scholarship program.

Ashland High School has three finalists in the National Merit Scholarship program. The students, Forrest C. Wells, Jeffrey Star and Miles B. Nerenberg, are all second semester seniors at AHS.

"The school has finalists in the NMS program on a consistent basis," Ashland High School Principal Jeff Schlecht said. "These three students are basically in the top 2 percent across the nation."

About 1.5 million students enter the scholarship program each year by taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test during their junior year. Fifty-thousand students qualify for recognition, which gets narrowed down to 16,000 semifinalists, then 15,000 finalists, resulting in 8,200 selected as scholars, who then receive scholarships. The scholarships vary, and selection at this level also opens doors to other scholarships and opportunities from many different sources.

According to Schlecht, the process is long, and with many stages, but it is a validation of the long, hard work that these students put in.

"It's a recognition that these students will be successful at the college of their choice," Schlecht said. "It removes any doubts in the selection process. These kids are just outstanding."

"I think it's a validation of focus, determination and dedication," Wells said. "It's about never doing the minimum and taking full advantage of the opportunities given to you at Ashland High School."

Star, who was also named the Elk's student of the month and is a finalist in the Presidential Scholars Program, agrees with Wells on the satisfaction of the recognition, but believes, "Now that we're all second semester seniors, we really need that carrot dangling in front of us to keep us going."

Nerenberg said, "I'm gratified, because I was always wondering about it. It really takes a long time."

The finalists have the opportunity to have their scores sent to two colleges of their choice by the scholarship program. The Ashland students' college choices are remarkably similar, but their selections in majors and interests varies, as does their personalities.

"It's up in the air where I want to go. Money will be the big issue," Wells said. "I'm really looking at Pomona in Claremont, Calif., or Whitman in Walla Walla, Wash. I'm thinking of doing a double major in a science and philosophy."

Nerenberg has decided on McKenna, Claremont or Occidental in the Los Angeles area. He is definite in purpose and has decided on an English major.

Star, also an actor, with a lead role in the current AHS production of "The Pajama Game," has also decided on either Pomona or Whitman, but can't decide whether to study literature history or opt for a government-based major. A major in theater is not an option for Star.

"I will continue in theater," said Star, "but I will not major in it as an undergrad, but I do plan on becoming a director."

As the three students conversed in the high school library, they commented once again of the high number of Merit scholars at Ashland High School, and mentioned the rumor that this years juniors might possibly have the sixth-highest PSAT scores in the country, a statistic that then Star commented, "There you go, another validation of Ashland High School."