Private Yukon school produces five National Merit Scholars

Five of the 21 graduates in Southwest Covenant Schools' class of 2013 were National Merit Scholarship winners, officials of the Yukon private school proudly report.
BY HENRY DOLIVE Modified: August 27, 2013 at 2:53 pm •  Published: August 28, 2013
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Members of the class of 2014 at Southwest Covenant Schools have embarked on their senior year, seeking academic honors and college scholarships. Their immediate predecessors left them a high standard to meet.

Five members of the most recent graduating class from the private, Christian-based school are launching their college careers with one of the most coveted prizes in academia: a National Merit Scholarship.

The five scholarship awards might be considered even more amazing in light of the total number of May graduates at the school: 21.

Southwest Covenant has had an impressive academic history with some of the highest average ACT scores in Oklahoma, said headmaster Steve Lessman, whose son was one of the National Merit Scholarship winners.

“It was quite a shock last fall when these five young men were named National Merit semifinalists,” he said.

To have all five move on to become finalists, then National Merit Scholarship winners was even more exciting.

Seth Brown, James Burton, Trevor Carmack, Christian Hagan and Garrett Lessman were named finalists in January. In June, they were announced as National Merit Scholars, the top prize of the competition.

“It's a big deal,” said Susie Nix, academic services coordinator at the school for the past 13 years and a close follower of the winners' academic careers.

According to its website, the National Merit Scholarship Program is a privately funded academic competition that annually awards scholarships to less than 1 percent of the more than 1.5 million students who enter the competition.

Outstanding class

All members of the class performed well throughout their careers at Southwest Covenant, Nix said. “They are just a good academic bunch.”

Nix said two additional class members also were National Merit semifinalists and have gone on to college with high honors. The 21-member class made an average score of 28.3 on the ACT, Nix said.

Steve Lessman said the 2013 senior class as a whole received more than $1 million in scholarship aid.

“They've had good teaching and a rigorous curriculum,” Nix said, “but they have challenged each other. They motivate one another. I can't say I was surprised. It will be interesting to see what God does with these young men.”