Oak Grove Trio Named National Merit Finalists


Three Oak Grove High School seniors with interests in different areas are among the 15,000 National Merit Scholarship Finalists that were announced recently by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

Hannah Cantrell and Ryan Davis, both 18, and Julianna Hampton, 17, were notified by mail at their home addresses. Principals also were notified and provided a certificate to present to each Finalist.

Oak Grove High School Principal Helen Price said she was excited that the school had three Finalists, which is unusual.

“It’s so rewarding to see their hard work pay off, both the students and the teachers,” she said. “This opens up more opportunities for the students and we couldn’t be more excited for them or proud of them.”

Cantrell is the daughter of Larry and Patricia Cantrell. She said she wants to study Graphic Design with a career in advertising.

“I’m not quite sure right now what I plan to do later,” she said. “My dad wants me to start my own company, but that might be a little too big to shoot for at the moment.”

Cantrell plans to study at Southern Miss, with graduate work at Tulane University. “I got accepted, but it costs a lot.”

She said being a National Merit Finalist gives her financial security. “I don’t have to worry about student loans,” she said.

One of her favorite classes is Humanities, Cantrell said.

“It’s like standardized test prep, but we also discuss movies, cultural things and stuff like that,” she said. “We also read a lot. It’s kind of like English actually.”

Hinton, the daughter of Karen and Robert Hinton, said she also likes Humanities.

“But I have to say band is my favorite activity because of my love of music,” she said. “I played trombone in band, but I also play piano.”

Hinton has decided on Music Performance as her major study “because I am a multi-instrumentalist.”

“As far as where I am going to go for college, that is unclear,” she said. “I have just recently gotten through with several auditions at different schools – Southern Miss, Vanderbilt and the Manhattan School of Music. So, it takes a while to kind of figure it out. They are all great schools, but I am still deciding.”

For Davis, the son of Mike and Edith Davis, 11th-grade AP English was his favorite class. “It helped solidify my writing skills. We also read a lot of good books.”

He plans to attend Southern Miss and study chemistry.

“Right now, I have decided that I am going to major in chemistry, but I still might change my mind,” he said. “I know I’m not going into medical school. I think if I get a chemistry degree, I am going to be an actual chemist. I do not know what concentration I would do.”

Hinton said being named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist is the culmination of enduring a difficult time.

“Most of all, being a National Merit Finalist gives me a sense of satisfaction that I was able to overcome some adversity in my life during this process,” she said. “To have success musically as well as academically with the National Merit Scholarship, it is sort of an imprint of what I have had to go through to get to where I am. My mom does have a rare illness, so it has definitely been a long, arduous journey these past few years.”

All winners of Merit Scholarship awards are chosen from the Finalist group based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments – without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference. A variety of information is available for NMSC selectors to evaluate, including the Finalist’s academic record, information about the school’s curricula and grading system, two sets of test scores, the high school official’s written recommendation, information about the student’s activities and leadership and the Finalist’s own essay.

Three types of Merit Scholarship awards are available and will be awarded to about 7,500 finalists until mid-June. The awards include National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, Corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards and College-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.

Other Pine Belt National Merit Scholarship Finalists include John Perry of Purvis High School, Gracie Holman of Petal High School and August Sohbian Thriffiley of Sacred Heart Catholic High School.