Though Orangefield is a small school district they can boast about one of their own being at the top.
Orangefield High School junior Kristen Blanke was named last week as a National Merit Finalist.
About 1.4 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants, according to a press release. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state.
Blanke received a 220 out of a possible 240. She also has a 2080 out of 2400 on the SAT and a 4.0 GPA.
She has taken the PSAT all three years of high school and her score for her junior year automatically qualified her for the National Merit Scholarship.
Blanke also learned about the scholarship from her sister’s boyfriend who earlier either a Semifinalist or a Finalist.
To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received.
A Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. From the approximately 1.4 million juniors that begin this lengthy process, only 15,000 receive National Merit Finalist recognition.
Some of the activities Blanke listed on the application is attending Texas Girl State Camp and the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards retreat last year, involvement in her church youth group at First Presbyterian Church in Orange, the National Honor Society, the Texas Association of Future Educators, the OHS volleyball team and the Orangefield Swim Team.
She also served as lifeguard at a church camp in Florida and at the Orange Natatorium.
She has already received a scholarship as a Semifinalist from Texas A&M University and a “very substantial” Brown Foundation Scholarship from TAMU.
Consequently, Blanke will be attending Texas A&M after graduation.
With all of her activities, she joked she doesn’t sleep.
In fact, her essay for the National Merit Scholarship was about how her activities prepare her for college.
Blanke was at the University of Texas in Austin with a group from school when her mother kept texting her and leaving her messages. Blanke was in the middle of the crowd and couldn’t answer her phone.
When she did reply her mother told her daughter she needed a picture of her for the scholarship. That’s when she knew she received it.
“I was really surprised. My mom told the whole family except she let me call my sister and tell her,” Blanke said.
Blanke is involved in UIL accounting and plans to major in business in college and become a CPA like her mother. Her mother is the CPA for Orangefield ISD.

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