Justin Nijoka becomes Central's first National Merit Finalist

Justin Nijoka becomes Central's first National Merit Finalist

Central High School Senior Advances as Finalist

for National Merit Scholarship

Justin Nijoka Becomes First Central Community School System Student

to Attain Prestigious Academic Honor


CENTRAL, La. – Central High School Senior Justin Nijoka has been named a finalist for the prestigious 2018 National Merit Scholarship, becoming the first student for the Central Community School System to receive the award.     

“It means a lot for Justin to be the first National Merit Finalist for the Central School System,” said Nijoka’s mother, Kim Nijoka.  “We hope his success will encourage other students and their parents to pursue this path and benefit from it.  Winning this award can certainly help with scholarships and covering tuition costs at most universities.”

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation sent letters to the finalists and their high schools this week, announcing the updated status of the students.  The process to get to this point has been long and arduous -- all finalists are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies. 

“This has been a long road, but it’s certainly been worth it to fund my education and get a start on what I want to do,” Nijoka said.

To first be considered for the competition, a student must take the PSAT test during his or her junior year of high school.  Entry scores and academic requirements are set for each state. 

 “A few students at our school were given the PSAT our sophomore year.  After taking that, the principal and our counselor told me about the program.  They encouraged me, that with some improvements on the test my junior year, I could qualify for the program,” Nijoka said. 

“So, I spent extra time between my sophomore and junior years studying the SAT prep book and working on my weak areas so I could improve my scores,” he said.

Nijoka said students from Louisiana had to score at least an index score of 216 on the PSAT to qualify in his junior year.  He scored a 220 index score to meet the requirement, then later improved his score on the SAT with an overall 1480 mark and a 221 index score to further enhance his standings.  Nijoka also added a composite 35 score on the ACT to his accomplishments, as well as a weighted 4.67 GPA for his four years at Central High.

“The process is really grueling.  There are lots of deadlines.  I was always worrying that I would not accomplish the required steps or that my scores would not be recorded in time,” he said.  “It’s been a long two years, but I’m so glad I did it!”

“Justin is the type of kid who puts 100 percent into all that he does,” his mother said. “I knew that once he got it in his head that he was going to do this that he would go the distance.”

Nijoka said he plans to attend either LSU or Texas A&M in the fall to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.  He said both universities offer financial incentives to National Merit Scholars, and both universities would add these incentives to any other scholarship he might receive.  He is required by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to declare his choice by the end of April.

Each year, from the approximately 1.5 million students who meet entry requirements, only about one-tenth are selected as semifinalists.  The list is further culled to those finalists who are eligible for merit scholarship.  The National Merit Scholarship Corporation anticipates awarding approximately 7,500 merit scholarship this year, which will be announced in March.  At the same time, many universities and corporations offer financial stipends to National Merit Scholars who qualify.

Nijoka is the son of Chris and Kimberly Nijoka of Central, Louisiana.

He is very active in local school organizations, including serving as president of the Beta Club, president of Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society, treasurer of Central High’s Student Government Association, and he assists with the school’s computer help desk.

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