National Merit Semifinalists & Commended Students: EPHS students represent success, perseverance despite obstacles

APNationalMeritSemifinalists2021

Eden Prairie High School students came out swinging this year and earned top honors from the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. 

The district recognized an outstanding 11 students who are National Merit Semifinalists, up from nine last year. Semifinalists represent the top half-percent of juniors in Minnesota who took the Preliminary SAT this spring.

Representing the top five percent of juniors who took the PSAT, 29 are National Merit Commended Students, up from 21 last year.

In addition, 36 students were named Advanced Placement Scholars with Distinction for earning an average grade of 3.5 on all AP exams taken and grades of 3 or higher on five or more AP exams. A grade of 3 on an AP exam typically qualifies a student to receive college credit for the course.

"You won't know what you can do with [your] diversity of talents if you don't try different things," said Social Studies Teacher Brian Sibley. The students named Sibley this year's Influential Educator, and he gave an address at EPHS's Recognition Breakfast on November 12. "The older you get, the less time you have, and I want you to have passion for what you do," he said.

Iesh Gujral, a senior and one of the National Scholars, credited parents/guardians, teachers and school staff for supporting their success. "You were behind the wheel the whole time too, so thank you," he said.

The success goes beyond the students recognized on November 12. Principal Robb Virgin and his team made great efforts in increasing student success across EPHS, and it paid off. 

EPHS Advanced Placement results show broad success

Eden Prairie has stepped up its commitment to academic excellence through various programs and offerings. The 2021 College Board's AP tests show that many students at EPHS engage and succeed in rigorous classes. 

Since the 2018-2019 school year, EPHS has increased the number of students enrolled in at least one AP course from 29% to 45%. Additionally, an EPHS-record 855 students took at least one AP exam in Spring 2021.

But, what steps were taken to get these incredible results? 

EPHS Principal Robb Virgin says increased access is as essential as the test itself. 

"Every student has a college-level experience before graduation. Not because we encourage students to go into four-year schools, but to have as many opportunities available to them if they want that college-level experience," Virgin explained. 

Teachers are an important part of the process because they can lend insight into talent that might not initially pursue more rigorous coursework.

"When you disrupt the cycle of a perceived or idealized path to achievement, it helps students know they can pursue other passions that didn't initially start when they were younger," he said.

Starting this year, EPHS introduced other higher interest areas, including psychology, environmental science, studio art, human geography and world history, to name a few. 

The take-away? Inspire students to believe they can take rigorous courses, partner with teachers that believe in the mission and honor student interest and give more access to students who are otherwise prevented from success. 

Increased Number of EPHS National Merit and AP Scholars

The National Merit Scholarship program offers students the opportunity to excel in academics and be recognized for their efforts through scholarships. The Cold War-era program, which began in 1955, was designed to "identify and honor scholastically talented American youth" in a time when the general public didn't honor high academic standings. 

The number of scholarships awarded over the years has increased, and participants are ranked not only on their test scores but on their "abilities, skills, extracurricular accomplishments, and potential for success in college and beyond."

You can view the full list of recipients here: