Hope Hodges, a senior at McCracken County High School, was named a National Merit Scholarship winner this week by the corporation that oversees those scholarships.
Hodges is one of 2,500 students nationwide and 32 in Kentucky to earn the scholarship. She is the only student in far western Kentucky to earn the scholarship.
National Merit Scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.
This year’s National Merit Scholarship Program began in October 2018 when more than 1.5 million juniors in about 21,000 high schools took the PSAT-NMSQT test, which serves as an initial screen of program entrants.
“It’s been a journey, to say the least, but it’s been a wonderful journey,” Hodges said of the 18-month track from being a qualifier to being a winner. “I actually wasn’t supposed to take the PSAT that day. My calculus teacher said, ‘Hope, why aren’t you taking this test?’ and I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was today.’ So, we went to my counselor and arranged for me to take the test.”
Hodges, who was named Miss MCHS 2020, is the president of the drama club, having taken part in nine shows, including “Grease,” which did not make it to the stage due to COVID-19 concerns.
She also takes part in the environmental club and Beta Club and is a member of the National Honor Society. She was also in Class 8 (2018-19) of Youth LEAD, a Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce program designed to develop and prepare students for future community support and leadership roles in Paducah and McCracken County.
She also formed an American Sign Language club at the school last year, something that came from her work in drama.
“There were three of us who did a show called ‘The Miracle Worker,’ ” she said. “I played Helen Keller, so I had to learn some sign language for the show. We decided to learn more, and there was more interest, so we felt like we should start a club about it.
“That was an amazing experience, to form a club around a hobby that we picked up.”
Before school was let out in March, the club had about 30 members.
Hodges will attend the University of Alabama, where her status as a National Merit Scholar will provide full tuition scholarships for five years, full housing scholarships for four years and stipends for books and studying abroad. She plans to major in management and public relations.
Hodges is the daughter of John and Shelly Hodges of Lone Oak.
From 16,000 semifinalists, 15,000 students met the high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition.
By the conclusion of the 2020 program, about 7,600 finalists will have earned the Merit Scholar title and received a total of over $30 million in college scholarships.