Kieran Obiozo and J.R. Stipp-Bethune, both seniors at El Dorado High School, have been named National Merit finalists.
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) each year holds a nationwide competition to identify and reward high school students for academic excellence. EHS Principal Sherry Hill said about 15,000 students qualify as National Merit finalists annually, representing less than 1% of all high school students in the United States.
"These two young men have been pushing each other – and there are a few others in the group – since junior high. They excel in everything they do, they work hard in everything they do and they contribute in other areas," Hill said.
Kieran and J.R. were recognized for their achievement on Monday by the El Dorado School Board. The families of both students were also in attendance at Monday's meeting, and could be observed beaming with pride.
"Less than 1% and two of them are standing right in front of us – I think that's impressive. Two very impressive young men," said El Dorado Schools Superintendent Jim Tucker. "We're very proud of you."
Both Kieran and J.R. participate in the EHS chess team and Quiz Bowl team. Kieran is also a member of the EHS Wildcats soccer team.
High schools around the country will be notified this month whether any finalists in attendance are scholarship recipients, and the finalists themselves will be notified in May, according to the NMSC.
After they graduate this spring, Kieran will head off to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), while J.R. plans to study at Oklahoma State University.
"I've got my offers from Oklahoma State though, their scholarship package for me being a finalist," said J.R. "That's the big part, just being a finalist."
One other student from El Dorado is also a 2023 National Merit Finalist: Robert Boerwinkle, who attended local schools through the 10th grade and who is now a senior at the Arkansas School for Math, Science and the Arts (ASMSA).
According to previous reporting, before he transferred, Robert was also a member of the EHS chess team and also participated in math and science competitions through the public school system.
"They're nice young men. They're strong in their academics, they're strong in their activities, but they're also strong in their character," Hill said. "They're kind to people, friendly, funny, so – I like them."
Board member Wayne Gibson told Kieran that he better remember to pack warm clothes for Massachusetts' cold winters.
"Yes sir," Kieran answered with a smile.