Spears is National Merit Scholar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Andalusia High School valedictorian Zoza Grace Spears is one smart young woman.

Now, she’s got the National Merit Scholarship win to prove it.

It was announced today that Spears is one of 2,900 winners nationwide to earn the prestigious scholarship. Officials of each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from among the finalists in the 2011 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution. In Alabama, nearly 90 high school students were awarded scholarships.

Spears said she plans to attend the University of Alabama, where she will pursue a degree in microbiology. She plans to become a doctor.

“I found out in April that I was a finalist,” Spears said. “That was exciting, but now to find out I made it to the next level, that was amazing. The thing about these scholarships is that it’s not really a winning thing, per se. It’s that you just advance.”

Spears said that as a junior she took the PSAT test, where her scored qualified her for the scholarship package.

“The National Merit people have agreements with participating colleges, which give you a scholarship based on your scores,” she said. “They notify the school that you select, if you’re selected as a semi-finalist. Then you have to write an essay and get a teacher’s recommendation.”

Neither of which was a problem for the English-loving, all A honor roll student.

“Then I had to take the SAT and that score qualifies you to move on as a finalist,” she said. “ I really, really wanted this package. For me, it equates to tuition for four years, my housing is paid for, and then – this is great, too – it gives you a one-time gift of $2,000 to use for study abroad.

“I’ve been to Paris, Barcelona and the south of France,” she said. “Now, I want to go to Egypt, but I’m not sure if that’s in the cards.

“I’m still kind of in shock,” she said. “But I am very, very happy about it.”

Spears is the daughter of Dale and Laura Spears.