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Eight National Merit Semifinalists at Oxford High

group photo of O.H.S.’s National Merit Semifinalists
Pictured left to right, front row: Charlie Fruge, Scarlet Hemmins, Georgia Wigginton, Gilad Goulet; back row: Navaneeth Srinath, Gates Allen, Captain Alexander, Jackson Newman.

Oxford, Mississippi (September 13, 2023) — Eight Oxford High School students have earned the distinguished title of National Merit Semifinalists in the 69th annual National Merit Scholarship program: Captain Alexander, Gates Allen, Charlie Fruge, Gilad Goulet, Scarlet Hemmins, Jackson Newman, Navaneeth Srinath, and Georgia Wigginton.

Semifinalists are selected based on their scores on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) in their junior year. Semifinalist status is awarded to the students from each state who scored the highest on the exam- less than 1 percent of US high school seniors.

The eight Oxford seniors can continue in the competition for some 7,140 National Merit Scholarships worth about $28 million that will be offered next spring. Nationwide, about 95 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists will win National Merit Scholarships, earning the Merit Scholar title.

To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist must submit a detailed scholarship application in which they provide information about the Semifinalist's 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, write an essay, and earn SAT® or ACT® scores that confirm the student's earlier performance on the qualifying test.

About the National Merit Semifinalists

Captain Alexander

Captain currently has a 4.0 gpa. He plans to study Music Education at one of his three top college choices: Ole Miss, Alabama, Middle Tennessee State University.

He has two seasons competing in Drum Corps International as the front ensemble section leader. Captain attributes his academic success to his mother “because of her insistence for perfection and positive encouragement.” Captain is the son of Kristina Carlson.

Gates Allen

Gates has a 4.40 gpa and his top three college choices are Alabama, Trinity College, and Union College. Gates plans to major in Biochemistry with a Pre-med focus. 

Gates is a captain of the OHS Swim team, a member of the OHS Track and Cross Country teams, a member of National Honor Society, and an active member of the Oxford-University United Methodist Church youth group. Gates says the most influential people in his academic success are his family who always push him to be the best he can be in all aspects of life. Gates is the son of Krisi Allen and Rob Dodson.

Charlie Fruge

Charlie currently has a 4.32 gpa and plans to study Government and Economics. 

His top three college choices with pending applications are Harvard, the United States Military Academy, and the United States Naval Academy.

He is the Student Body President, Governor of Mississippi Boys State, an Eagle Scout, and a US Senate Page for Senator Wicker. Charlie also sits on the Mississippi State Board of Education as the Senior Student Representative, providing input at monthly board meetings on behalf of all 400,000 public school students in the state. 

“My parents have been most influential, as they constantly support me and provide a space for me to grow intellectually. Without my parents, I wouldn’t have the accomplishments and accolades I do at this point,” said Fruge. Charlie is the son of Don Fruge Jr and Liza Fruge.

Gilad Goulet

Gilad currently has a 4.31gpa and his top three college choices are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and Cornell University. He plans to study either Chemical or Mechanical Engineering.

Gilad has maintained all A’s through what are considered some of the most rigorous courses offered at Oxford High School, such as Calculus AB and BC and AP physics C Mechanics. This summer, Gilad was awarded the AP Scholar with Distinction award for his scores on various AP exams, managing a 5 (the top score) on all three AP exams he took last May. Gilad is also proud to have been a member of the Oxford High School band since seventh grade, and is now serving as the band president as elected by the students. He was a member of the Mississippi Lions All State Band in 2022 and 2023 and traveled with them to Quebec, Montreal, Boston, and Washington D.C., where they won the International title. He has also competed in the MTNA national young artists competition in which he was selected to represent Mississippi in 2019 and 2021. Gilad is a member of Scout Troop 144 in Oxford, where he has served in multiple leadership positions and earned over forty merit badges. He has achieved the highest rank in scouting: Eagle scout with a bronze and silver palm. 

Gilad attributes his academic success to his family. “My parents have been there every step of the way giving me any opportunity I wished to take to succeed, and my siblings provided an ideal role model of not only what a good academic but a good person looks like.” Gilad  is the son of Denis and Tamar Goulet.

Scarlet Hemmins

Scarlet currently has a 4.48 gpa and her top three college choices are Dartmouth, Cornell, and Tulane. Scarlet plans to major in Biological Sciences on the Pre-med track.

Scarlet is ranked among the top 10 students of her class. She has been playing the violin for the past 7 years and involves herself in several community service clubs. She helps run a club that teaches beginning level French to middle schoolers. She volunteers as an art camp teacher at the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s kids’ art camp. The biggest influence on her academic success is her older sister – “She motivated me to have ambitions as big as her own, and showed me the importance of dedication and a strong work ethic.” Scarlet is the daughter of Cristen Hemmins and Andy Hemmins.

Jackson Newman

Jackson currently has a 3.5 gpa and plans to major in pre-veterinary studies or a natural science.

He is most proud of his achievements on athletic fields. Jackson was an all-region selection in soccer, an all-state awardee as a sophomore defenseman by the Mississippi State Lacrosse Association and was named to the provisional United States U19 National Team for the Youth World Championship in Team Handball.

“Coach Charlie Winnick has greatly influenced my academic success by helping provide an environment conducive for educational and personal growth,” Jackson said. 

Jackson’s parents are Bruce and Kristin Newman.

Navaneeth Srinath

Navaneeth currently has a 4.40 gpa and his top three college choices are Georgia Tech, Stanford, and Texas A&M. He plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Navaneeth is the current president of both the OHS National Honor Society and the Technology Student Association. He is a co-captain of the Science Olympiad Team, and has placed in several events at both the regional and state levels. He has earned the Gold Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish, as well as the AP Scholar with Distinction award. Navaneeth has also completed over 200 hours of community service through tutoring his fellow students at OHS. 

Navaneeth attributes his academic success to his peers. “They motivate me to give it my all in everything I do. Throughout high school, my seniors have proven to be valuable role models, something that I wish to become for the graduating classes after me. The amazing accomplishments the class of 2024, as well as the graduating classes before us, have achieved will never cease to amaze me. We’ve always been there for each other when we’ve gone through rough patches and we continue to support each other to this day. We have grown up in an environment where we have all strived to do our best and have worked towards becoming “First in Class—The Oxford Way.”

Navaneeth is the son of Dr. Srinath Rangappa and Shalini Chendla.

Georgia Wigginton 

Georgia has a 4.13 gpa and her top three college choices are Vanderbilt, University of Chicago, and Bard College. Georgia plans to study Psychology and Art in college.

Georgia Wigginton loves art and has taken advanced art classes and continues to help her art teacher in facilitating their classroom. “Ms. Hershfelt has been the most influential in my academic success. Ms. Hershfelt helps to remind me that learning can be fun.”

Georgia is the daughter of Caroline Wigginton and Kerry Wigginton.

Heather Lenard