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Local Students Win National Merit Scholarships

A trio of Johnson County students are among approximately 7,500 students in the United States receiving National Merit Scholarships.

Will McGuinness, a high school student from Franklin Community High School, Julia Johnson, a homeschooler and resident of Greenwood, and Justin Xia, a Center Grove High School alumnus who now attends the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities at Muncie, will each receive $2,500 for their college education.

In order to qualify for the scholarships, students posted scores in the top 1% of the PSAT. They had to complete an application, including a personal essay, and provide a transcript and ACT or SAT scores demonstrating continued proficiency.


McGuinness, the only student attending a high school in Johnson County to receive a scholarship, plans to go to DePauw University to major in economics or political science.

The process took about a year and a half, he said.

“At the start of the junior year I took the PSAT, and from there I moved into the semifinal round earlier this year,” McGuinness said. “Earlier this winter we found out we were finalists and a few weeks ago they sent out letters to all the people who were the actual scholarship recipients, so the process took about a year and a half.”

Getting into college on financial aid will give McGuinness the relief he needs, he said.

“To be one of the only ones in Johnson County to get this is a big deal for me,” McGuinness said. “Obviously going to college these days is a big deal financially. I’ve been filling out scholarship applications left and right, so every money counts. This not only reflects the number years of hard work that paid off, but it also helps to have that money and know that’s $2,500 less than my parents and I will have to pay for college.

While at school, McGuinness participated in the National Honor Society, Franklin Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, Harvard Model Congress, and was a member of the boys’ varsity golf team.

Xia, from Greenwood, went to Center Grove High School during her freshman and sophomore years before transferring to the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities, a boarding school in Muncie.


While in high school, Xia was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, he said.

“I was on the Center Grove swim team and the school I go to now. I started playing football at this school, am one of the presidents of the Asian Student Union, and participated in the academic Super Bowl,” Xia said.

Xia will then travel to Atlanta, where he will study computer science at Georgia Tech University.

“It’s in Atlanta, which is a big city with a lot of opportunity. There are a lot of people, and it also has a very good reputation for IT,” Xia said. “I’m really happy to have obtained (the scholarship). It’s a multi-faceted thing, with a test but also an application process to get through. I am happy to have succeeded. »

Julia Johnson, a homeschooler, received news of her scholarship in late March after completing the application, which included a list of her activities and volunteer work, an essay and answers to demographic questions. In her essay, she explained why she wanted to pursue a career in service, Johnson said in an email.


“First, I describe how my parents ran a group home and inspired me to help those less fortunate than me,” she said. “Next, I describe how a service provided by my youth group helped me realize that I wanted to have a career of service to others. We make ceramic hearts, butterflies and urns for families with stillborn babies. A year after joining the ministry, I became its coordinator. Finally, I tell about a hand injury I suffered in gymnastics and how the kindness of my occupational therapist inspired me to pursue a career as an occupational therapist so I could help others heal.

Johnson accepted an offer from the University of Indianapolis, whose tuition will be covered by the university’s National Merit Scholarship and Presidential Scholarship. She plans to study exercise science before pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy.

“I am deeply honored to receive this scholarship and appreciate that I can share the joy of others in my community,” she said.