Ketchikan High School student Kai Biagi recently was named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.
Biagi, a Kayhi senior involved with wrestling, soccer and the National Ocean Sciences Bowl teams, received one of the highest scores among Alaska students who completed the PSAT exam as a junior, qualifying him as a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship program, and putting him in the running to be named a finalist, according to Kayhi Principal Jason House.
Students who are chosen to receive a National Merit Scholarship are selected in March. Some of the scholarships are paid as one-time awards, sponsored by a specific college or corporation, or may be renewed across multiple years, according to the NMSC website. Participants who are not selected as scholarship winners also may be eligible for other scholarships provided by business entities, according to the organization.
"It's a significant accomplishment," House told the Daily News during a Monday afternoon interview. "He has to be in the very, very top of performers in the state in order to earn that recognition, and so we celebrate him for that, and it's just another indicator of, I think, of the great accomplishments he's had throughout his career at Kayhi."
House also wished Biagi luck as he continues through the competition.
Kayhi counselors Natasha O'Brien and Danielle Call told the Daily News on Tuesday that Biagi is one of 16,000 semifinalists selected from schools around the country, and one of 38 Alaskan semifinalists. He is the sole semifinalist to be selected from a Southeast Alaska community, O'Brien noted.
If Biagi is chosen as a finalist in February, he would be one of 15,000 from around the country. A total of 7,500 national merit scholarship recipients will be announced in March, O'Brien said.
"The next step is that we, the counselors, have some information to put in about our school and his class rankings and stuff like that," O'Brien explained. "And then he has an application to fill out as well. There's some essays ... he needs to enter a SAT or ACT score."
Danielle Call said that Biagi's status as a semifinalist — while it doesn't guarantee a scholarship from a potential college — still opens many doors for the student.
"There are some schools that do award scholarships for semifinalists," O'Brien added.
Speaking to the Daily News on Tuesday evening, Biagi said that being named a semifinalist came as a surprise to him.
"I didn't know until after I found out I was in the running," Biagi said. "So that was surprising, but I didn't know if I would get it or not, I knew I was right on the edge."
Biagi is working on the application process, which he said involves essays focusing on personal experiences.
The Daily News also spoke with Biagi's parents by phone on Monday.
His mother, Julie Biagi, said her son scored in the 99th percentile of high school juniors taking the PSAT.
"It was kind of a surprise to us last year, I mean, he did really well on the PSAT, and then Mr. (Robert) MClory, who was the guidance counselor last year, said he would be in the competition for the award, and then we just found out this month that he made the semifinalist," she said.
Christian Biagi, the senior's father, said that his son has been pushing himself in both academics and extracurriculars.
"We're just real proud of him," he said. "He's been challenging himself with a lot of AP classes, I think he's taking three at a time, and he's pretty busy with sports and all that other stuff. And just super proud of how hard he's working lately."