The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 11, 2013

Scholastic success: Bishop Carroll senior among elite national group

Kelly Urban

EBENSBURG — Keep an eye out for Eileen Shoemaker because this Bishop Carroll Catholic High School senior has a bright future ahead of her.

The 17-year-old was recently named a National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist.

She is the daughter of John and Mary Ann Shoemaker of Ebensburg.

Eileen achieved the honor by earning high scores on the PSAT exam she took during her junior year.

Of the more than 160,000 students nationwide who take the test, only about 1,600 are designated as semifinalists.

Eileen is the only student at Bishop Carroll to receive the honor this year.

“I was surprised because I thought it was a fairly easy exam. I didn’t realize that it’s as big of a deal as it is,” she said. “But it is a big accomplishment and I did work for it, so I’m proud.”

After being notified of her semifinalist status, Eileen had to submit her SAT scores and an essay to the National Merit Scholarship Program – where she could now be named a finalist.

An estimated 1,300 students will be notified by March if they’ve received finalist recognition.

“For my essay I wrote about adjusting to high school after being home-schooled through eighth grade,” Eileen said.

A huge benefit to being a semifinalist is that institutions of higher learning are usually champing at the bit to get these students into their schools.

“I’ve had some colleges sending me letters, mostly all out of state,” Eileen said.

Should she reach finalist status, there’s a good chance Eileen will receive a full tuition to the college of her choosing.

“I want to be an occupational therapist and work in therapeutic riding,” she said.

Eileen’s narrowed down her choices to St. Francis University in Loretto, Gannon University in Erie and the University of Findley in Ohio because all three have occupational therapy programs that cater to her specific needs.

“I’ve been accepted to all three. Now I’m just waiting to hear about the finalist status before I make a decision,” she said.

Kimberly Dunlap, an English teacher at Bishop Carroll, said she isn’t surprised that Eileen was selected as a semifinalist because she’s an excellent student who takes pride in her work.

“This is a bright young lady who is dedicated to her schoolwork and her out-of-school activities,” Dunlap said. “Having taught her for four years,

I am impressed with how

much she dedicates to preparing for class and turning in only quality work. She deserves to be recognized for all her hard work.”

Eileen, who is ranked first in her senior class, is active in the Pro-Life Club, the Liturgical Choir and National Honor Society. She also has served as a student ambassador, showing younger students from area schools around the building when they come for a visit.

She plays the violin and has participated in District Orchestra and plays during the school’s monthly Masses.

Outside of school, Eileen volunteers at Star Equestrians in Strongstown, a therapeutic facility that caters to individuals with disabilities.

She dances at the Tir na Nog Irish Dance School in Altoona, something she’s done since she was in sixth grade.

“The dancing takes a lot more skill than people know, and it’s a good way to stay active in the winter,” Eileen said. “I’ve made a lot of friendships through dance. I’m hoping to continue with it to improve.”

She also teaches violin lessons and finished third in

the state in the teen division at the Pennsylvania State Fiddle Contest that was held in October.

And although she is busy both in and out of school, Eileen said she enjoys all her activities and has no plans of slowing down.

“I like to stay active, and it’s a good way to meet people who have similar interests as me,” she said.

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