Every year, students enter the National Merit Scholarship (NMS) competition by taking the Preliminary SAT. The students that are designated as Semifinalists – those with the highest scores –represent the top 0.5 percent of high school seniors in the United States.
This year, East Lansing High School is proud to have four Semifinalists and two Commended Students for the National Merit Scholarship among the ELHS Class of 2022.
ELHS Principal Andrew Wells spoke on behalf of the district and told ELi, “Collectively, when we think about the district, we also think about the parent-district partnership. Along their journey, [the recognized students] have had much support from staff in conjunction with their families. With the staff being [who] they are – outstanding educators [who] continue to give the best education possible.”
Wells also emphasized the fact that these six students, “represent a percentage of students across the country that have academic aptitude that is outstanding… Not only do they represent their families, they also represent East Lansing School District.”
The students honored expressed gratitude toward their parents, families, teachers, and the ELPS and East Lansing communities when asked for comment about the award.
Drake Howard, Commended student
During Drake’s time at ELHS, he has participated and excelled in advanced-level and advanced placement (AP) courses.
Drake is a part of ELHS’s Symphonic Orchestra and Encore Strings where he sits first chair and plays his viola.
Language has intrigued Drake even outside the classroom. He has spent his free time exploring a variety of languages, but in the classroom his junior year, Drake took an AP French course. He also began studying Japanese in 2018 outside of school on his own
Drake spends much of his time participating in a variety of clubs such as Model UN, Tabletop Games Club, and the National Honor Society.
Judd Pfeiffer, Commended student
Judd’s hardwork in high school has earned him the title of a Commended Student of the National Merit Scholarship.
Judd spent his high school years participating in varsity tennis, as well as on the varsity track team.
Amongst his academic achievements, Judd has been a member of National Honor Society.
John Ahlin, Semi-Finalist
John was All-State in band, playing the trumpet from grade seven to eleven, and he was awarded Outstanding Soloist at the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association Solo and Ensemble Festival in grade eleven.
John has placed Top 100 in Michigan Math, and he participated in the Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition in grades nine and ten, all while taking four honors math courses at Michigan State University throughout his time at ELHS.
John was also awarded First Place in an MSU Physics Challenge in grade nine.
Hugh Hankenson, Semi-Finalist
Hugh played water polo his first two years of high school and was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year Award and a varsity letter his freshman year. Hugh was recognized as an All-Conference swimmer his sophomore year and then elected Captain of the ELHS Swim and Dive team his junior and senior year.
Hugh also participated in the Robotics Team, Science Olympiad, Students for Gender Equality, Model UN, Chess Club, and Students for a Better Education (SBE).
Hugh is the founder and president of SBE. He wanted to provide more support for ELHS students academically. Through SBE, Hugh went on to create a tutoring program for MacDonald Middle School students to address academic challenges during Covid-19.
Hugh also participated in a unique opportunity with MSU, in which he assisted in research in the Applied Biomolecular Engineering Laboratory.
Jinyoung Jeong, Semi-Finalist
At the Michigan State Tournament in 2021, Jinyoung placed 7th in Protein Modeling and 8th in Anatomy & Physiology, all while serving as president of the ELHS Science Olympiad Club.
Jinyoung spent time as a participant in the Physicists Inspiring the Next Generation Program. As a member of the American Physical Society, she assisted in nuclear physics research at MSU’s Facility of Rare Isotope Beams and also contributed to the TARDIS-SN open-source astrophysics software.
Her junior year, Jinyoung was chosen to participate in the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association All-State Orchestra. As a senior, she is concertmaster of ELHS’s Symphonic Orchestra and Encore Strings and of the Mid-Michigan Youth Symphony.
Jinyoung also founded the Vivace Strings group – a group of volunteers that she leads.
Abigail Lippert, Semi-Finalist
Abigail moved to East Lansing from Green Bay, Wisconsin, after her sophomore year. In Green Bay, she participated in student clubs and the swim team, and she was also involved in student government at her high school.
When she moved to East Lansing her junior year, Abigail joined a few academic teams: Science Olympiad, Model UN, and other student clubs. She also joined athletic clubs like the swim and water polo teams.
For Abigail’s senior year, she embarked on an exchange program in Germany, where she has been studying since the beginning of this fall semester.