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Seniors are semifinalists for Merit Scholarships

October 04, 1999

Mohammed M. AliBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photos: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




A future doctor and a computer guru emerged as two of this year's top high school seniors when they qualified recently as semifinalists for Merit Scholarship awards.

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Mohammed M. Ali and Shawn Horine scored in the upper half of the nation's top 1 percent of high school juniors when they took the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test last year. Both are 16 years old and will celebrate birthdays next month.

Both are straight-A students and like to read.

Mohammed attends North Hagerstown High School and hopes to become a neurologist. Shawn goes to Grace Academy, a private Christian school, and plans to study computer science.

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Mohammed is the son of Mohammed and Farhath Ali. His father is a general practitioner and his mother is a homemaker. The family moved to Hagerstown from Hyattsville, Md. about seven years ago.

Shawn has two sisters, Zaahira, 18, and Aamira, 13, and one brother, Ansar, 11.

Latin is his favorite subject, in part because of teacher Joseph Scheer. "He's the best teacher I've ever had. He's very influential," Mohammed said.

He credits his friends, family and teachers for his success.

His uncle, urologist Mohiuddin Ali, also has been a big influence on Mohammed's life. "He always thought I could do more than I do," he said.

Mohammed has taken several Advanced Placement courses and holds a 4.2 grade point average. He got a composite score of 233 on the PSAT and a 1530 on the SAT.

He likes learning, but not school, because classes follow a strict schedule regardless of a student's progress. "It's all based on time," he said.

Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University and Columbia University are his top three picks for higher education. Mohammed and his best friend, Dost Khan, plan one day to open a medical practice together.

"I like to help people a lot," he said.

Shawn HorineShawn is the son of Steve and Donna Horine of Greencastle, Pa. His father works at Alban Tractor Company and his mother works for Kelly Services. He was born in Hagerstown and has attended Grace Academy since kindergarten. He has one brother, Jamie, 7.

Although chemistry was his favorite subject, Shawn enjoys tinkering with computers. He helped install the school's first network. Last year, he started exploring on his family's Compaq 386 DX.

He got a new computer in June and enjoys trying to upgrade the machine, making it smarter and faster. He is teaching himself calculus in an independent study class.

"The way things work, that's always interested me," he said.

Shawn has a 4.0 grade point average and got a composite PSAT score of 229 out of a possible 240. He scored 1480 out of a perfect 1600 on the SAT. He plans to attend either Taylor University in Indiana or Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

Although he may transfer to a secular school later, Shawn wants to start college in a more religious environment. "It's a major life-changing time, and I wanted to have that Christian influence," he said.

About 1.2 million students took the PSAT last fall and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation named 16,000 semifinalists last month based on those scores.

The independent, nonprofit organization awards about 5,000 scholarships each year. Students compete on the basis of PSAT scores, academic and extracurricular achievements, and school recommendations.

It is more difficult to become a semifinalist in Maryland than in most states, according to Grace Academy Guidance Counselor George Michael. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation set a high selection index for the state. To qualify as a semifinalist, Maryland students had to score a minimum of 218 on the PSAT.

The state had 294 semifinalists this year. Finalists, to be named Feb. 7, will receive certificates of merit. About half of the finalists become scholars and earn $2,000 awards.

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