AHS student named merit semifinalist

Published 12:58 am Saturday, September 13, 2014


An Andalusia High School student and her parents can breathe a little easier knowing her college tuition will be paid for.

Ashley Nicole Spears, a senior at AHS, was named one of 16,000 semifinalists in the 60th annual National Merit Scholarship Program, this week.

The NMSC is a not-for-profit organization that honors the nation’s scholastic champions and encourages the pursuit of academic excellence.

“I’m excited about it,” Spears said. “I’m one of 16,000 in the nation. Right now as a semi-finalist I have tuition for four years at the University of Alabama.”

Spears said her parents are happy because they won’t have to pay her college tuition.

“With Alabama, if you make finalist, they give you $2,000 for study abroad,” she said. “It’s tuition for five years, so I could even spend a summer semester abroad.”

In order to be accepted as a finalist, Spears said she would have to score well on her SAT before December, write an essay and have a recommendation from the AHS principal.

She said she recently wrote an essay for English that she will use and she’s pretty confident in getting a recommendation from AHS principal Dr. Daniel Shakespeare.

“The essay has to be about an experience that has defined you,” Spears said.

Spears said she plans to attend med school and her essay describes her time in a program held at Alabama and what it meant for her.

“I went to a program this summer for Future Health Professions in Rural Communities at Alabama,” she said. “We got to hear from people who are actually in medical school and from the dean of the medical college at Alabama.

“It was lots of fun,” she said.

She said she is not sure which branch of the medical field she will pursue but she is interested in being a general practitioner or pediatrician.

“She is an outstanding student and has always been an outstanding student here at AHS,” said Shakespeare. “She is one of a long line of students that have made it to this level from a high school of this size.”

Spears’ sister Grace, an AHS alumna, became a finalist of the NMSC and is now a senior at Alabama. She is also planning to be a doctor.

The secret to the two girls’ success, Spear said, is in the games they played with their parents.

“We played a lot of word games,” she said. “When we would be in the grocery store with our mom, we would calculate prices and we had a game where we’d come up with homonyms and homophones.”

Spears said she is confident in becoming a finalist.

“They send rejection letters in January,” she said. “So if you don’t get one you’re pretty mucha finalist.

“There’s only about 1,000 who don’t make it from semifinalist.”

She said most that don’t make it to be a finalist are those who have a low SAT score or do not turn in all of the requirements.

Spears said she is prepared to take the SAT next month.