U.S.: Peoria Seniors Named Semifinalists For Scholarships

John Clark of Peoria High School, left, and Vincent Lageschulte, middle, and Rachel Kohm of Ironwood High School are three of the semifinalist students for the National Merit Scholarship. (Peoria Unified School District/Submitted)

The National Merit grant Program has named four Peoria Unified School District students semifinalists for a $2,500 college grant.

Vincent Lageschulte and Rachel Kohm go to Ironwood High School, while John Clark goes to Peoria High School and Naiomi Protz goes to Liberty High School.

These semifinalist honors demonstrated these schools’ commitment to providing excellent education to their pupils.

“We are proud of our academics at our high school and that they are a focal point of our education,” Ironwood High School Principal Russ Dunham said. “We’re also extremely thankful, grateful, proud of all of our teachers, our staff, counselors — everybody — for anybody on this campus that deals with kids. The kids are doing the heavy lifting here, but they have plenty of support. 

“We think we’ve created an atmosphere where kids can thrive and do well. … So, it’s nice to get this just high-level acknowledgement for our kids.”

Both Lageschulte and Kohm are involved in other elements of their school in addition to the National Merit Scholarship Program. Their recognition pays attention to those other initiatives and demonstrates Ironwood’s holistic approach to education.

“Both our students this year are full (International Baccalaureate) diploma candidates. … It’s extremely challenging, it’s stressful, it’s hard, but there’s plenty of support,” Dunham said. “We have a tremendous IB coordinator who meets with kids individually, looks at their strengths and where they can do better, and really tries to push them through to excel in that program.

“We do think it puts them in a better spot than where they would be if they weren’t involved in it.”

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a national non-profit organization that provides scholarships to deserving students. Lageschulte, Kohm, Clark, and Protz are four of 16,000 semifinalists nationwide competing for a spot among 7,140 finalists to receive a total of $28 million in scholarship funding in spring 2024.

Their accomplishments were evaluated beginning in their junior year, when their preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test scores served as an initial screening process for all applicants. From there, the national pool shrank from nearly 1.3 million to 16,000, placing them in the 99th percentile of all applicants.

To be considered a finalist, students and their schools must submit a complete application that includes their academic record, community service activities, leadership talents, employment, and awards or rewards received.

Whether or not local finalists get the scholarship money, their schools are proud of their accomplishments.

“(The teachers and students) deserve a ton of recognition, support and to be celebrated for the work they do every single day,” Dunham said.

“So, when they do see this as something special, it does make everybody feel that sense of pride. You feel success. You’re just excited that our kids get to be recognized this way.” 


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