Two SHS Seniors Named National Merit Finalists

Jackson Shapley and Soyeon Park, 2023 National Merit Finalists

SHS Seniors, Jackson Shapley and Soyeon Park have been named 2023 National Merit Finalists.

Two Starkville High School seniors have advanced to earn recognition as National Merit Finalists.  Soyeon Park and Jackson Shapley are among 15,000 students to achieve Finalist standing for their distinguished performance in the National Merit program. 

Both students scored in the top one percent of students in Mississippi on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test to be named Semifinalists. After writing essays, taking the SAT and earning scores that confirmed their PSAT/NMSQT Semifinalist performance, Soyeon and Jackson qualified as Finalists.

Both Soyeon and Jackson have attended the Starkville Oktibbeha School District since elementary school and shared ways their studies at Starkville High have prepared them for the future. "The opportunities this school provides with its AP and Dual Credit classes have really helped prepare me for college courses," Soyeon said.

"In the past few years, I have learned so much about myself—who I am, who I desire to be," Jackson shared. "That, I think, has the most rewarding aspect of SHS for me."

"Teachers I have taken are invested in our educations and making sure we can succeed in whatever path we choose," Soyeon said. She highlights the commitment of Tara Agnew, who taught her middle school Computer Science as well as Dual Enrollment coding classes, as an example of that investment. "I really admire her commitment to making sure things are done not just well, but properly," Soyeon continued. "I hope to bring even a fraction of that energy into my own study and work."

In addition to his academic studies, Jackson has been a member of the Cross Country team during his time as a Yellow Jacket. He has also volunteered with the Starkville Strong Youth Coalition. Although Jackson has not fully settled on his major, he plans to attend Rhodes College and focus on his interests in Computer Science, Psychology, English, and Biology.

Soyeon credits her summer internship on the Jacket Tech Team as one of her most rewarding experiences as a student. During the internship, she shadowed district IT personnel and helped with various technology projects. "It was extremely rewarding getting hands-on experience with computer set-up and issues," she said. "I was also able to pick up a lot of soft skills involved with customer service and teamwork."

Soyeon will put that experience to work as a Computer Science major at Purdue University after graduation. She eventually hopes to work with businesses and entrepreneurs to develop programs that make workload easier with an emphasis on accessibility.

"Soyeon Park and Jackson Shapley have been outstanding students," SHS Principal, Dr. Darien Spann said. "I am super proud of these two young adults for their tenacity and determination to work towards a goal and watch it come to fruition. They represent the epitome of Starkville High School."