GALLIPOLIS — Local high school senior Josh Blevins may be one in a million to his classmates and teachers at Ohio Valley Christian School of Gallipolis, but, when it comes to his school work, he is one in 1.5 million, to be exact.
Blevins, who took the 2011 PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) as a junior back in the fall of 2011, was recently notified by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, one of the agencies that sponsors the test, of his achievement as a National Merit Finalist, or one of the 15,000 students scoring in the top one percent of the approximately 1.5 million individuals who took the test.
“I just don’t know how to say that this is a big deal,” Ohio Valley Christian School’s Chief Administrator Patrick O’Donnell said on Friday of the achievement. “This is a big deal. This is a big deal for our area, for southern Ohio. I can’t remember the last time we had a National Merit Semifinalist in the area, but it’s been a little while, it hasn’t been since I have been an administrator, I believe, and certainly I can’t remember the last time there was a National Merit Finalist that came out of this area.”
The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a standardized test generally taken by students in their third year of high school as a practice test before taking the SAT (a widely-used college entry exam), as well as a means by which to enter the National Merit Program and gain recognition, scholarships and preparation for college entry, according to O’Donnell.
“It’s not only a practice for the SAT, but it also helps kids understand areas of growth that they may want to concentrate on for the upcoming school year and shore up as they go into college,” O’Donnell said of the test that focuses on critical reading, writing and math. “It gives you a little indication about how you might perform on the SAT, but it is also is qualifying test for these scholarships, as well.”
It takes a year for the scores to return from the PSAT and, in September of the following year, approximately 50,000 of the 1.5 million students who compete in the National Merit Scholarship program are recognized as having the highest scores in all three areas of the test. Of those, approximately two-thirds, or 34,000, receive letters of commendation in recognition of their achievement.
The remaining 16,000 students are named as semifinalist, and, of those, the 15,000 finalists, who have met high academic standards and other requirements, are notified in February of the following year that they have advanced to the next round of the competition.
Winners of the National Merit Scholarship awards are then chosen from among the finalist group based on their abilities, skills and accomplishments.
Winners of the competition have access to wide variety of scholarships and awards, but so do finalist, and Blevins, who was just recently notified of his achievement, is already enjoying the fruits of his hard work.
According to O’Donnell, due to his standing as a finalist, Blevins will have his full tuition and other expenses paid to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
The National Merit Corporation maintains partnerships with division one schools throughout the country that offer scholarships based on the competition, and, because of this, Blevins choice of a university was made easier and he was led to the division one, Christian school, Liberty University — the right fit for his academic needs.
“I’ve been there several times, and it’s always appealed to me greatly. The atmosphere around it is fantastic,” Blevins said of his college choice. “I just really like what they are doing. They are growing all the time.”
Blevins, a humble scholar athlete who is leaning toward a major in finance when he enters Liberty University this fall as a freshman, has not only excelled on the soccer field as a OVCS Defender, but has also excelled in the classroom.
When speaking of his achievements on Friday, Blevins thanked his parents and teachers for their positive influence on his life and education.
“I’m very proud of [the achievement], to be totally honest. Obviously, it’s something to strive for, and it’s an achievement I’m pleased with, and I’m pleased to bring this school some recognition,” Blevins commented. “Both my parenting and my schooling have raised me in a way to think critically and make my own opinions on things instead of just accepting what I’m told. A lot of that, and a lot of the logic that has been instilled in me, is what has helped me with this test-taking ability that I’ve got. It’s a blessing from God, and everyone has their own abilities, and that’s mine, so I’ve just got to use it.”
O’Donnell, who knows the Blevins family well as Jennifer, Josh’s older sister who is currently attending Otterbein University, graduated from OVCS in 2012, and Eric, Josh’s younger brother, is a freshman at his school and is also a student athlete, commended their parents, Dr. David and Paula Blevins.
“I think Josh is ‘Exhibit A’ of good parenting and owning his own responsibility for his learning,” O’Donnell said. “Josh is very serious about his studies, and I think that is hugely important in the field of education, and I think he has had a good school to go to, too, with good teachers.”
OVCS, a private institution located at 1100 Fourth Avenue in Gallipolis, pulls students from across the tri-county area, and the school’s chief administrator further commented that Blevins is not only an exemplary student at his institution, but also an exemplary leader who will be missed by the OVCS family.
“Our desire here is we want to provide an academically excellent, distinctively Christian education to our kids, and I think Josh is an example of what can happen if a student applies themselves here at this school,” O’Donnell said. “I think the the sky is the limit for them academically, but also as far as their Christian character and conduct. Josh is a great guy. He just really is. And, it’s like he said, ‘to God be the glory.’ All of this wouldn’t be possible without Him.”