Return to Headlines

Finalists in National Merit Scholarship Competition

group photo of Oxford High School's 2023 National Merit Scholarship finalists
Pictured left to right, front row: Mina Kang, Keerthin Karthikeyan, Fikir Beyene; back row: Charlie Ligon, Andrew Atchley, Walker Dabbs, Aidan Sullivan.

Oxford, Mississippi (February 28, 2023) — All seven of Oxford High School's National Merit Semifinalists have been named Finalists – Andrew Atchley, Fikir Beyene, Walker Dabbs, Mina Kang, Keerthin Karthikeyan, Charles Ligon, and Aidan Sullivan. These students were named semifinalists in September, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors with the highest-scoring entrants in each state on the PSAT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test PSAT/NMSQT®).

To become a Finalist, the student must submit information about the Semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

About the Finalists

Mina Kang

Mina has a 4.33 GPA and has earned a Gold Seal of Biliteracy (Korean). Her top college choices are Honors College Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Emory. She plans to major in Biochemistry. She is the National Honors Society Treasurer, AP Scholar with Honor, 4 years of Marching and Symphonic Band, Drum Major, Honorable Mention Lions Band, flute player for The SpongeBob Musical, and YASV Graphic Design Core Leader.

"My sister, Anna, has been the most influential to me in my academic success. Not only has she helped me understand problems I don’t know how to solve in my everyday classes, but she has also served as a role model for me. My sister has motivated and encouraged me in many ways throughout high school. She has also helped me organize my thoughts and figure out what the best path for me might be after I graduate." Mina is the daughter of Minsoo Kang and Inhee Kim.

Keerthin Karthikeyan

Keerthin is graduating with a 4.54 GPA and has applied to Stanford, Columbia, Ole Miss Honors College 4.54 he plans to major in Biology (focused on Neuroscience), Public Policy Leadership; and minors: Intelligence Studies, International Affairs. In 2020, he was selected out of 2.2 million Boy Scouts to be a delegate to the Report to the Nation, an annual event held in Washington D.C. As a rising freshman, he competed in the Genius Olympiad, an International Science Fair competition with 43 U.S. states and 79 countries participating. He achieved the silver medal at the competition, the first time a medal has been achieved at this competition in Mississippi's history.

Keerthin has been a finalist for ISEF (International Science & Engineering Fair), the largest international science fair competition in the world, for 4 years in a row. In his sophomore year, Keerthin was officially recognized by the Mississippi State Congress, by being officially written in Mississippi's record books, for bringing honor and recognition to the state due to his accomplishments on a national and international level. Keerthin serves on the State Superintendent's Statewide Advisory Council and is a Student Ambassador for Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson.

"My parents have been the most influential in my success because they instilled within me the mindset that I can always do better and push forward perpetually. They've instilled within me the idea to utilize disadvantages and convert them into advantages, and they've helped me understand that limits are merely temporary barriers. Without them, I would never have had the will to achieve the things I've had the opportunity to participate in. They continue to help me move forward to this day." Keerthin is the son of Premalatha Balachandran and Karthikeyan Rathinavelu.

Fikir Beyene

Fikir is graduating with a 4.42 GPA and has applied to Ole Miss Honors College, Duke, Princeton. She plans to double-major in International Relations and Public Policy before attending law school. She is Mississippi's Most Effective Attorney (Mock Trial), 2x State Finalist in Extemporaneous Speaking (Speech and Debate), Speech Captain, Senior Class Secretary, and National French Exam Bronze Medalist.

My parents because they were some of the first in the families to go to college and modeled the value of a good education. Fikir is the daughter of Hanna Wondimagegnehu and Zenebe Beyene.

Charlie Ligon

Charlie has a 4.42 GPA and has applied to Notre Dame, the University of Alabama, Purdue University. He plans to major in Engineering/ Biology. His highest achievements include "Winning the 6A Cross Country State Championship in 2021", Captain of Cross Country team, Director of the 6th annual Memory Makers Tennis Tournament and has raised more than $20,000 this year, and being President of the Students for Alzheimer's Club. He has earned the AP AB Calculus Award, AP BC Calculus Award, AP Biology Award, AP European History Award.

My dad has always encouraged me to be an excellent student, always have integrity, and strive to contribute to my community. Charlie is the son of Allen Ligon and Kendall Ligon.

Andrew Atchley

Andrew has a 4.31 GPA and has applied to Ole Miss, University of Alabama, and Georgia Tech. Andrew is part of the All-district second team soccer sophomore year, is most proud of his A in Coach Baughman’s AB and BC Calculus Class Engineering.

Coach Baughman has been most influential in his success by showing him how much he enjoys math. He is the son of Emily and Peyton Atchley.

Walker Dabbs

Walker has a 4.33 GPA and plans to attend the University of Alabama to major in Mechanical Engineering. His accomplishments include Mock Trial State 4th and 6th Place (2020 & 2021) National Honor Society, and Beta Club. His parents have been most influential in his academic success, "they’ve supported and encouraged me for my whole life." He is the son of Anna Dabbs and Clay Dabbs.

Aidan Sullivan

Aidan plans to study Engineering Physics or Electrical Engineering. Aidan, alongside Mr. Bankston, organized a chess camp with 30+ people, and placed 1st in the U18 division (3rd in the combined U16/18) at the National Junior Chess Congress in Orlando, FL. Aidan is a Science Bowl National Qualifier. He has earned 5's on all 8 AP exams so far. Self-taught physics and calculus to be able to tutor other students. He has a 273 high score and has a 670 series (223 average) in bowling.

Adian states that his mother has been the most influential in his success, "she has worked tirelessly to provide for the two of us. Dr. Logan and Mrs. Husbands also for their support throughout my high school years, as they've done plenty of favors for me as I navigated my way through dual enrollment and as I am now navigating my way through college applications. I am indebted to the kindness and generosity that they have shown me." Aidan is the son of Shino Sullivan.

Heather Lenard