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Two Norfolk Academy seniors, Toria Kauffman '22 and Gavin Goss '22, have been recognized as semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. 

Only a tiny fraction of high school seniors earn this annual honor. Toria and Gavin are two of roughly 16,000 semifinalists this year; those students represent less than 1% of high school seniors across the nation. Students gained consideration by taking the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen.

In addition to their academic successes, both Toria and Gavin perform in a number of extracurricular activities.

Toria has been an active club participant. She has served as Co-President of the German Club and volunteer for a German Cultural Exchange; Vice President of Lifesavers Club; and been a Peer Counselor. She's also an Engineering, Design, and Innovation Fellow in the Batten Leadership Program, playing a role in Leadership Lab each of the past three years. She has also done work for Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital and is an avid horseback rider since first grade, serving as a Interscholastic Equestrian Association state representative at the Virginia State Legislature in 10th grade.

“Victoria is an extraordinary contributor to school life, balancing co-curricular involvement in the EDI Fellows, Peer Counseling, and leadership of an array of clubs with her commitment to academic excellence," Headmaster Dennis Manning said. “She has tremendous enthusiasm for learning across a wide array of disciplines, from English class to computer science, and teachers know that Toria brings her full curiosity and energy to every class."

Gavin is serving as senior class Vice President and has been part of the Tunstall Student Council each year in Upper School. He is a Global Health Fellow in the Batten Leadership Program and traveled to Belize in 10th grade. A three-season athlete, he has been on the varsity lacrosse team since ninth grade. He has also played varsity soccer since 11th grade and winter track since 11th grade - he played basketball in ninth and 10th grades. He has also participated in the Winter Musical; served as Middle School Happy Club President and Special Olympics Club Treasurer; and competed in the annual TEAMS academic competition.  

“While Gavin's passion is lacrosse, his involvement in an array of varsity teams exemplifies the best of Bulldog sports-competitiveness, sportsmanship, and love of the game," Mr. Manning said. “He's also serious about giving back to the community, and that complements his intellectual excellence. His leadership roles in Happy Club and Special Olympics attest to a generous spirit."

Semifinalists can apply to become finalists, a group that will be announced in early 2022. To earn that honor, semifinalists and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application with academic information, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. They must have outstanding academic records throughout high school, receive a recommendation from a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm their earlier performance on the qualifying test.

Norfolk Academy has been fortunate to have many National Merit Finalists over the years. Sean Miller '20, who is at the University of Virginia on the premier Jefferson Scholarship, received the honor in 2020, and Brammy Rajakumar ’19, who is studying at Harvard University, received the honor in 2019.

All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from the group of Finalists. They are chosen on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnicity, or religion.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered next spring. Every Finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored awards will be provided by about 220 businesses for Finalists who meet their specified criteria. And about 180 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,100 awards for Finalists who will attend their institution.

NMSC, a not-for-profit organization, conducts the scholarship program. 

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