Joplin High School senior Derek Carter has been named a National Merit Scholar.
For Carter, the honor will mean most of his education at the University of Alabama will be paid for through scholarships from the university.
“My family and I are extremely excited,” Carter said. “This is never really something I expected to win.”
Carter and two other Joplin High seniors, Siri Ancha and Michelle Barchak, were among 15,000 National Merit Scholarship finalists this year.
Carter plans to study business at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. That city, like Joplin, was ravaged by a tornado last year. He thinks his personal essays about his experiences as a Joplin student helped him stand out to the selection committee.
“In one of the essays, I wrote about what the last year has been like since the tornado, how senior year is different and how it’s been difficult to continue my standard of school in the last year,” Carter said. “I think that might have been something that stood out and made them see me as an actual person, and not just another essay that they’re reading.”
Throughout his time at Joplin High, Carter has participated in varsity tennis and Constitution Team, and was president of both the Future Business Leaders of America and the National Honor Society chapters at the school. Carter said he hopes to continue involvement in the college’s chapter of FBLA. He also plans to continue playing tennis through intramurals and clubs.
Several factors led to the honor, he said, including the teachers at JHS.
“I had a lot of teachers over the last four years that have really helped prepare me for this,” Carter said. “In order to become a scholar you have to do well in a lot of areas, not just testing well, but writing essays and being a well-rounded student in everything. JHS has been great in preparing me for this.”
Carter said the university actively recruited him, including frequently calling him and sending him a birthday card.
“Alabama will have a lot of opportunities for me,” Carter said. “I was just very impressed, and think I’ll be happy there.”
As a National Merit Scholar, Derek Carter is one of 8,300 students who will receive corporate-sponsored, college-sponsored and National Merit $2,500 scholarships.