Return to Headlines

Students chosen for National Merit program

National Merit Seminfinalists

Two high school seniors are semifinalists in National Merit Scholarship Program

Two Gaston County Schools students have been named 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists, taking the first step in the highly-competitive program to earn the distinguished finalist honor and possibly win a National Merit Scholarship.

Gwen Campau of Stuart W. Cramer High School and Travis Rainwater of Highland School of Technology are among 16,000 students announced as national semifinalists from a pool of 1.5 million students.  They will have an opportunity to compete for 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth nearly $30 million that will be offered next spring.  Students entered the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

To move on to the next round of becoming a finalist, students are judged based on an application that highlights their academic record, leadership abilities, employment, participation in school and community activities, and honors and awards.  Students must also write an essay and be recommended by a high school representative.

This year’s finalists from Gaston County Schools are not just excelling in academics. Both are involved in extracurricular activities and find ways to give back to their community.

Campau is active in the National Honor Society and the Gaston College Math Club. Campau believes in getting ahead and is currently planning to complete her associate degree by the time she graduates from high school.  She also is interning with a company that will help her achieve her degree.

“I’m working with a tech-based company in Texas that focuses on cyber security. We test products to ensure quality and fix minor code changes as needed,” she said. “I plan to attend UNC-Charlotte to obtain a computer science degree so this is really helpful for the future.”

Rainwater is an active member of the Technology Student Association, Beta Club, and Earth Club. He says his work with the Earth Club is important as it’s a great way to raise awareness. 

“In Earth Club, we have organized events to help clean up our campus and make it more environmentally friendly,” he said. “We go around the grounds to collect recycling and dispose of litter. I also really love coming up with new initiatives to propose to the school to get our peers involved in the process.”

In addition, he is proud of his ministry and mission work through his church. Rainwater volunteers with a program to help people with learning disabilities and is a clerk at Cherryville Area Ministries, a thrift store that provides food and support for the community.

Rainwater, who would like to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, balances all of these activities with a part-time job and learning more about manufacturing and engineering. 

In the spring, Campau and Rainwater will find out if they have advanced to the finalist level. Of those finalists, about half will win a scholarship.  Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit Scholarships, some 1,000 corporate-sponsored scholarships, and 4,100 college-sponsored scholarships.  The winners will be notified after April 1.