News Release: Fort Smith Schools Students Named 2021 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

For Immediate Release:
September 9, 2020

Contact: Christina Williams, Coordinator of Public Information
Fort Smith Schools Students Named 2021 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists
Fort Smith, AR, September 9, 2020 – Four students from Fort Smith Public Schools have been
named 2021 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists by the National Merit Scholarship
Corporation (NMSC).

● Jaicie Clayton, Southside High School
○ Daughter of Dr. Justin and Jaidi Clayton
● Jackson Hannan, Southside High School
○ Son of Jeff Hannan Jennifer Little
● Jackson Minnick, Southside High School
○ Son of Mark and Autumn Minnick (FSPS teachers)
● Haris Rana, Southside High School
○ Son of Javed and Sara Rana
Pictured from left to right: Jackson Hannan, Dr. Lisa Miller, Haris Rana, and Jackson Minnick
*Not pictured Jaicie Clayton

There are approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship
Program. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists represent less than 1% of U.S. high school

Clayton, Hannan, Minnick and Rana will have an opportunity to become finalists, continuing in
the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million. To be
considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to
advance to the Finalist level of the competition. Over 90 percent of the Semifinalists are
expected to attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit
Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

“It brings a great sense of pride to see students receive this prestigious recognition within The
National Merit Scholarship Program. FSPS has provided opportunities with programs like the
Superintendent Scholars to encourage and extend learning for these bright students wishing to
travel the path to become a National Merit Finalist,” said Dr. Ginni McDonald, Director of
Secondary Education, Fort Smith Public Schools.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these students. They’ve worked so hard, and to see the rewards of
their hard work, it’s very humbling to me. I am so proud of their efforts,” said Dr. Lisa Miller,
Southside High School Principal.

“It’s a blessing. It really is an accumulation of all the years that I’ve worked hard to keep my
grades up, to prep for tests and execute on test days. I have an older brother who was in the
same position last year and I saw how it benefited him and I hope it will benefit me as well,”
said Jackson Hannan, FSPS Student.

“I am really excited to have this opportunity; I think mainly it’s because of the great instruction
I’ve received at Southside and previous schools. I’m a little surprised I’ve been able to
accomplish this much and I’m thankful to those who helped me get this far,” said Jackson
Minnick, FSPS Student.

“It’s an incredible honor. I think it’s the culmination of not just my efforts, but the efforts of the
teachers and mentors who stood behind me. We actually had a program to help students
prepare for the PSAT, and so having that experience definitely prepared me to the best of my
ability to take the test. I’m really excited for what’s in store,” said Haris Rana, FSPS Student.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed
scholarship application, in which they provide information about the Semifinalists’ academic
record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities,
employment, 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, and write an essay.

National Merit Scholarship winners of 2021 will be announced in four nationwide news releases
beginning in April and concluding in July.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation Press Release

About Fort Smith Public Schools
From unmanned aerial systems programming to unforgettable kindergarten trips to the farm,
Fort Smith Public Schools provides incredible opportunities and strong instruction for each of
the almost 15,000 students in its 19 neighborhood elementary schools, four junior high schools,
two senior high schools, one alternative learning center and one adult education center. With
nationally recognized schools, students, educators and organizations, Fort Smith Public Schools
are always the best choice. For information, visit