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September 2023 Student and Staff Recognitions

September 2023 Student and Staff Recognitions

September recognitions within Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) highlight the hard work of our students and staff as they are honored for their achievements and community service.

ACHS Semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program

Congratulations to our four Alexandria City High School (ACHS) students who are among the more than 16,000 semifinalists in the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The ACHS semifinalists are Silas B. Adkins-Hooke, Abigail S. Gerstein, Bennett M. Imlay and Benjamin D. Turney who said they are proud and pleased to be selected.

These students are among the nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors and include the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

Adkins-Hooke has his sights set on studying music or physics in college and says he is considering teaching as a profession because he has had amazing teachers at Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS). Gerstein is considering urban studies or anthropology for her career path as she would like to help build better cities that are affordable and functional. Imlay is exploring future options in the areas of engineering, physics or computer science. Turney is planning to study aerospace engineering and would like to work on nuclear propulsion for spacecraft.

“The Counseling Department is very pleased to recognize four seniors this year as semifinalists in the 2024 National Merit Scholarship Program! The National Merit Scholarship Program was established in 1955 and is an annual academic competition for scholarship. Over a million students enter the competition every year, so we are exceptionally happy to recognize our four students for their exceptional academic promise demonstrated by their outstanding performance on the 2022 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. These students are a great example of the hard work and determination that we have seen in our senior class each year at Alexandria City High School,” the ACHS School Counseling Team said.

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® or ACT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $28 million that will be offered next spring.

Finalists will be notified in February 2024 and all National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from that group. The 2024 National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July.

Twenty-four ACHS Students Receive National College Board Recognition

Twenty-four Alexandria City High School (ACHS) students earned academic honors from the College Board National Recognition Programs, demonstrating their strong academic performance. The National Recognition Program is a proven way for Black, Indigenous, Latino and rural students to share their strong academic achievements with colleges and scholarship programs that are seeking to recruit diverse talent.

“We are thrilled to celebrate our students and recognize them for the great work they have been doing. We are proud of their strong academic performance in the classroom and on College Board assessments like the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and advanced placement (AP) exams,” ACHS Director of School Counseling Briana Hardaway said. “There is so much that makes our students unique, and receiving this honor reinforces this as an asset for their future.”

The criteria for eligible students include:

  • GPA of 3.5 or higher.
  • PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 assessment scores that are within the top 10% of assessment takers in each state for each award program or earned a score of three or higher on two or more AP Exams in ninth and tenth grade.
  • Attend school in a rural area or small town, or identify as African American/Black, Hispanic American/Latino or Indigenous/Native.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard for students to be ‘seen’ during the college recruitment process. We’re exceptionally proud of the National Recognition Programs for celebrating students who are at times overlooked but have shown their outstanding academic abilities,” said Tarlin Ray, senior vice president of BigFuture at College Board. “This is a benefit not only for students, but also for colleges and universities committed to recruiting diverse and talented students.”   

The following ACHS students achieved this College Board recognition: Alem Alem, NAARA; Jenaba Bah, NAARA; Julio Barroso-Perez, NHRA; Malia Cozier, NAARA; Daniel Dawit, NAARA; Caleb Etse, NAARA; Lia Fitzgerald, NHRA; Taylor Frazier, NAARA; Veronica Holguin, NHRA; Hayat Ismael, NAARA; Sienna Lardizabal, NHRA; Yasmeen Mukhtar, NAARA; Elvert Nunez, NHRA; Will Price, NAARA; Sofia Reyes, NHRA; Catherine Salomons, NAARA; Yahney-Marie Sangare, NAARA; Girum Tekle, NAARA; Essey Tesfai, NAARA; Erika Vidal, NHRA; Alexander Witebsky, NHRA; Sara Woube, NAARA; Nahom Yohannes, NAARA; and Victoria Zambrano-Argueta, NHRA.

Award Key: National African American Recognition Award (NAARA), National Hispanic Recognition Award (NHRA), National Rural and Small Town Award (NRSTA) and National Indigenous Award (NIA).

Celebrating 15 Years of Substance Use Prevention

Community partners and prevention champions from Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) are among those being honored at this month’s Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA) anniversary event. The Alexandria City High School (ACHS) Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program and ACHS TV/Media Production Teacher Vilma Zefran are among those who will be singled out for their dedication to advancing substance use prevention at “A Trend to Get Behind: Celebrating 15 Years of Prevention” on Sept. 27, 2023.

“The JROTC program finds importance in participating with the Substance Abuse Prevention Program,” Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Journey Fisher and Cadet Captain Ryan Cunha said. “We believe our programs have a mutual enhancement to bring peace, positivity and likeness not only to our community, but hopefully to the future of the United States. We find it to be a shared responsibility with the community because we are looked upon with being involved and leading. It is also important we not only lead, but we learn and teach as we go. Being involved in this prevention program helps us, our JROTC program, expand our knowledge so we can also go on to teach outside our program.” 

Zefran believes student involvement in video projects addressing substance use and guiding them with coping mechanisms to navigate the complexities of life will help today’s youth persevere and succeed in their future endeavors. "As the Alexandria community continues to grow and expand and the world becomes more complex, it is even more important that our children are not only aware of what's happening but also be given a chance to support and participate in the issues that surround them,” Zefran explained. “The TV/Media Production program at ACHS aims to do that: get students involved and help out with the skills they learn and develop in the program.”

SAPCA’s 15-year anniversary gathering celebrates the Alexandria community’s efforts to educate, inform and empower our youth to make informed choices about their health and future. SAPCA is an alliance of parents, youth, schools, city health and recreation agencies, media, nonprofits, businesses, policymakers and law enforcement. Its mission is to engage diverse sectors of the community in collaborative, cross-cultural and comprehensive substance abuse prevention efforts that result in a reduction of underage substance use and abuse in the City of Alexandria.

ACPS Awarded Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting

The Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) financial services team has been awarded the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) Certificate of Excellence (COE) in Financial Reporting for the FY-2022 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report. ASBO underscored ACPS’ 32 years of participation in the COE program, saying it serves as a testament to the school division’s commitment to transparency and high-quality financial reporting.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our Accounting Office for being awarded ASBO’s Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for FY2022. This is a testament to the team’s continued maintenance of internal controls and hard work developing our Annual Comprehensive Financial Report,” ACPS Chief Financial Officer Dominic Turner said.

Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt commended the financial services team under the direction of Turner on its latest achievement. “In communicating its financial story, ACPS illustrates the value of full disclosure and accountability to our stakeholders.”

First Student Representative on DASH Advisory Committee

Alexandria City High School (ACHS) senior Salma El Gourchal is the first student representative to be appointed to the DASH Advisory Committee (DAC), which advises the Alexandria Transit Company on its bus transit service. As part of the committee, El Gourchal, a former Superintendent Student Advisory Council member, will provide input on a wide variety of service-related matters that impact ACPS students who ride DASH buses within the City of Alexandria.

“We are so proud of Salma’s appointment. This recognition is indicative of Salma’s commitment to ensuring the voices of ACHS students are heard and will allow her to have influence on important transportation issues impacting not just ACPS, but all youth across the City of Alexandria,” ACHS Lead Administrator for Operations Michael Burch said.

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