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Three students from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District qualified as semifinalists

Much like other seniors, West Linn High School senior Pascale Patterson, 17, is in a whirlwind of advanced placement exams, deadlines and scholarship and college applications. Unlike most students, Patterson is in the 1 percentile among high school seniors in the United States.by: ALAN DYCK PHOTOGRAPHY - Pascale Patterson, 17, is a senior at West Linn High School and a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Patterson was recently named a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Program. While the nomination comes as an honor, Patterson’s school counselors and administrators are not surprised.

Patterson said her academic success is due to her work ethic — a trait she inherited from both parents. Last year, she said, she dedicated about five hours each night to her studies.

“My whole high school career has been school, school, school,” she said. “I’ve definitely dedicated my life to studies.”

At the same time, the senior who lives in Damascus with her family, is well grounded.

“A lot more matters in life than just your GPA in high school,” she said. “I’ve had more of a life than just books.”

Patterson was home schooled until her freshman year of high school. Patterson and her sister, Chloe Patterson — a National Merit Scholar and current senior at Arizona State University — enrolled in West Linn High School due to the availability of AP classes.

Patterson said, at age 10 she wanted to become a veterinarian because she grew up on a farm with cows, chickens and horses. Today, her family breeds dogs.

“I spent my whole childhood with animals, but I wanted something different,” she said.

So she turned her passions toward becoming a doctor.

“I really like helping people,” she said.

Patterson is still undecided about which college she wants to attend and what major she will pursue. She is considering studying either biomedical engineering or computer science like her sister. Her parents have encouraged her to do what she loves.

“I’m nervous about applying and nervous about leaving home,” she said. “I guess it’s kind of exciting, the new possibilities.”

Over the summer, Patterson took macroeconomics at Clackamas Community College and Writing 121 and 122 at Mt. Hood Community College the summer before.

This year, Patterson is taking AP computer science, AP English literature and composition, AP calculus BC, biochemistry and world history gold. She is also taking Spanish 201 and 202 at Clackamas Community College.

“I love language,” she said. “It’s kind of like math — instead of plugging in numbers you plug in words.”

At West Linn High School, Patterson is secretary of the National Honors Society as well as a member of the National Language Honors Society, the math team, the Red Cross Club and the Wilsonville High School FIRST Robotics team.

Although the school year just started, Patterson has a lot on her plate with college applications and “scholarship season” to consider. Yet through it all, her motto remains: “Work hard now so you know how to work hard in college.”

National Merit Scholarship Program

Three students from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District qualified as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Pascale Patterson from West Linn High School, and Sophia Ries and Benjamin Traffas from Wilsonville High School.

About 1.5 million juniors entered the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2011 preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship qualifying test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists — representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors — includes the highest scoring entrants in each state.

The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors. Approximately 16,000 semifinalists were announced. These academically talented high school seniors will have the chance to compete for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered next spring.

To become a finalist, the semifinalists and their high schools must submit detailed scholarship applications in which they provide information about the semifinalists' academic records, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities 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.

All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in college.

About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing. Students will be notified in February. More than half of these finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship earning the Merit Scholar title. Scholarship winners will be announced throughout April and July.

For more information about the National Merit Scholarship Program, visit nationalmerit.org.

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