Forty CCSD Students Recognized As 2023 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists

September 23, 2022

Charleston, SC — Charleston County School District (CCSD) is proud to announce that 40 students from the Class of 2023 are semifinalists in the 68th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) released the names of more than 16,000 semifinalists last week.

The following CCSD students are 2023 semifinalists:

Academic Magnet

Joseph J. Bench

Nora W. Cheng

Lily K. Coulter

Spence D. Cox

Maria E. Cymbalyuk

Summer D. Desouza

Elena S. Graham

Dennis C. Griffin

John Habakus

Ransome W. Hudson

Henry A. Hughes

Sampson P. Kennedy

Leo Li

Irene Y. Liu

Angela Mei

Elizabeth A. Murray

Daniel T. Orvin

Finlay G. Palmer

Lilly Skinner

Cooper A. Smith

Jeffrey Song

James H. Unger

Andrew M. Wallace

Willa R. Wiley

Moyu C. Yamaguchi

Elliott P. Yarborough

Alan Zhang

Charleston County School of the Arts

Ryan R. Dickerson

Aurora L. Drye

Anna Garziera

Lucy Beckham

Thomas W. Collins

Mila K. Ganaway

Peyton C. Matheson


Brody Bundis

Alexander Fister

Samuel Henshaw

Rowan Johnson

Sydney Lewis

Inna Voloshchuk

Carson K. Walker

Lucy Beckham High School is making its debut for this honor; this will be the school’s first-ever graduating class.

“As part of our first graduating class, these semifinalists represent not only the highest academic achievement but the strength and determination that the Class of 2023 embodies,” said Anna Dassing, Lucy Beckham’s principal. “They have worked tirelessly to overcome and persevere through a global pandemic to be top in their class and we could not be more proud of this incredible accomplishment.”

Academic Magnet High School leads the state with 27 semifinalists.

“These are students who have not only demonstrated academic excellence, but demonstrated excellence in challenging times given how disjointed these last few school years have been,” said Academic Magnet Principal Jake Perlmutter. “Staying focused, staying committed, and excelling through adversity is a remarkable accomplishment and these scholars and their families should be very proud of this recognition.”

These CCSD high school seniors are now competing for some 7,250 National Merit Scholarships worth close to combined $28 million that will be awarded in the spring.

“We are so proud of our gifted semifinalists and their academic accomplishments,” explained Dr. Shannon Cook, principal of Charleston County School of the Arts. “This level of success results from their hard work, the rigorous instruction provided by their teachers and the support they receive from their families. We applaud our young artists and look forward to their future contributions and success.”

High school juniors entered the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

"Nelson Mandela famously said ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’" added Wando Interim Principal Kim Wilson. “The seven Wando students who qualified for 2023 National Merit semifinalist status personify what Mr. Mandela was talking about in this quote. Through hard work and determination, they have obtained the goal of being one of the top academically talented high school seniors in the nation. The Wando family is proud of these students and look forward to seeing how they will change the world.”

To become a finalist, the semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application that includes the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

2023 National Merit Scholarship finalists will be contacted by NMSC in February and winners will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 368,000 other distinguished young people who have the title of Merit Scholar.