Mary Donato, daughter of Douglas and Gina Donato of Oakville, CT and a member of the class of 2014, has been named a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist and is among the top 1% of scorers among the 1.5 million juniors who took the PSAT/NMSQT exam in October 2012.

The National Merit® Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students enter the National Merit Program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®)—a test which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.5 million entrants each year–and by meeting published program entry/participation requirements.

In September, about 16,000 students, or approximately one-third of the 50,000 high scorers, are notified that they have qualified as Semifinalists. To ensure that academically talented young people from all parts of the United States are included in this talent pool, Semifinalists are designated on a state representational basis. They are the highest scoring entrants in each state. NMSC provides scholarship application materials to Semifinalists through their high schools. To be considered for a National Merit® Scholarship, Semifinalists must advance to Finalist standing in the competition by meeting high academic standards and all other requirements explained in the information provided to each Semifinalist.

In February 2014, some 15,000 Semifinalists will be notified by mail that they have advanced to Finalist standing. High school principals will be notified and provided with a certificate to present to each Finalist.

All winners of Merit Scholarship® awards (Merit Scholar® designees) 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: 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.

Mary has been very involved at Sacred Heart High School participating in the Heart’s freshman orientation summer program each year. As a member of the National Honor Society she freely gives of her time and talent to support Habitat for Humanity, and many school wide Community Outreach projects. She has served for three years as a reporter, a Managing Editor and is currently Editor In Chief of the school newspaper, the Forum. She is a member of the Photography Club and currently serves as Secretary. Mary has been a four year member of the Track Team serving as manager for three years and varsity runner as a sophomore.  Mary was a member of the Sacred Heart High School Cheerleading Team her junior year. A graduate of St. Mary Magdalen School and a member of St. Mary Magdalen Parish, Mary also finds time to be an assistant teacher at Children’s Dance Workshop. Mary will pursue a career in Molecular Biology.