Tonganoxie senior also among National Merit Scholars

Justin Smith

Tonganoxie High School senior Justin Smith has been carrying around a secret he can make public today.

He’s one of a select group of high school seniors across the nation named a Merit Scholar by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Smith, the son of Jeanne and Frank Smith, Tonganoxie, said he learned the news about a month ago but was told he could share it only with his immediate family.

“It was a little bit hard, just because of my absent-mindedness,” he said. “I think I let it slip once to a friend, then I had to say, ‘Oh yeah, you’re not supposed to tell anyone.'”

Today, officials with the Evanston, Ill.-based National Merit Scholarship Program officially released a list of 2,500 Merit Scholars, which allows Smith to share his good news.

The accomplishment, said THS counselor Kathy Walker, is no small feat.

“It’s one of the highest honors for high school students,” she said. “And it opens up just a number of wonderful opportunities from all of these universities that compete to try to get these students.”

As a Merit Scholar, Smith will receive a $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit Scholarship Program. Smith also will receive an institutional scholarship from Kansas University, where he’ll study chemical engineering.

“At least for now,” he said. “It’s one of those things that might change, but it’s a good starting point. : It’s a lot easier to start out in chemical engineering and switch to something else than it is, say, to start out in something else and switch into chemical engineering.”

Smith credited all of his teachers back to grade school with helping him achieve his academic standing.

“I’ve had a lot of good teachers,” he said. “It would be a disservice to some to try to name just a few. They’ve all helped me.”