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May 18, 2006

Cullman senior named National Merit Scholar

Cullman High School can now boast of having one of only 24 National Merit Scholars in Alabama public schools.

Daniel Hollis recently learned he was among the 2,500 students nationwide to earn the prestigious award. The senior said he plans to take the $2,500 scholarship to Auburn University.

"I plan to go to Auburn and study physics," Hollis said after school Thursday. "I've always liked math and science. I'm especially interested in how the theoretical part of the world works, how things move."

Hollis, like 1.3 million American students, took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in his junior year. Less than the top 1 percent in each state, or about 16,000 students nationwide, were named semifinalists.

Semifinalists then submit applications to National Merit, including a recommendation from their principal or counselor and an essay. About 90 percent of semifinalists become finalists. Hollis said his essay described his educational experiences and goals for the future.

The 15,000 finalists were then narrowed down to 2,500 winners on the basis of test scores, grades and other accomplishments. Most scholarships are funded by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a private nonprofit, but about 10 percent are corporate-sponsored. Hollis' comes from the National Distillers Distributors Foundation.

A member of the school's Scholars Bowl and math teams and the National Honor Society, Hollis said he intends to pursue postgraduate degrees, but he's not sure what career path he will take — perhaps teaching or research.

He said his parents, Wayne and Beverly Hollis, and his teachers drove him to succeed.

"Really, all my teachers have been pretty influential in shaping what I've been able to do, and my parents have been a big part of that," Hollis said.

Hollis also won a Freshmen Academic Scholarship and the College of Science and Mathematics Scholarship from Auburn.

Counselor Jill Bishop-Hollis said National Merit Scholarships are extremely selective.

"He competed against the best and the brightest of students to be selected for that," Bishop-Hollis said. "It's a big honor. We look forward to seeing him do really great things."

Cullman High typically has several National Merit Semifinalists each year, she said.

Principal Lane Hill said Hollis excelled in the school's toughest offerings of Advanced Placement courses.

"He's just one of those brilliant kids, very high achieving," Hill said.

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