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Three Franklin students earn national status in scholarly pursuits

Feb. 26, 2013

Franklin - Emma Klein, Kirsten Pelkey and Jeff Roettgen are proud of their academic achievements.

So are their families and school officials.

All three seniors at Franklin High School are National Merit Scholarship finalists, part of an exclusive group of just 15,000 students selected nationally out of 1.5 million who originally took a Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test in their junior year.

As members of that approximately 1 percent group, they are eligible to receive scholarships. Soon they will learn if they are in an even more exclusive category of 8,300 scholars who receive additional scholarship perks.

Contained excitement

After applying with their senior SAT scores and backgrounds indicating involvement worthy of a well-rounded scholar, the students waited for word earlier this month.

"The application was quite a while ago in the fall, and I wasn't sure - I was worried but I'm really excited to get this," Pelkey said.

Roettgen said the merit scholarship process made him excited, nervous and relieved.

"I'm happy and a little surprised," he said. "It's just a good feeling"

Klein said she noticed a big difference in taking the SAT compared to the PSAT.

"It was a lot harder," she said. "There were a lot of tricky questions and vocabulary. The application wasn't that big of a deal.

"I was really excited to be named a finalist because it's a national honor," she said.

Aspiring engineer

Pelkey intends to study chemical engineering at one of three schools she has targeted - the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) and Notre Dame University.

In school, Pelkey also participates in tennis and robotics. To relax away from school, she enjoys reading and playing the piano.

She credits her parents and teachers for her academic achievements, In fact, her mother, Lisa, said the family has relied on a Montessori education from 4-year-old kindergarten through eighth grade. She noted that Kirsten took the PSAT in her sophomore year.

"Kirsten has always had a challenging and rigorous classroom background," Lisa said. "It was a good foundation. She also is in a class of very smart kids who support and challenge each other."

Legal or actuarial career

Roettgen said he plans to attend the University of Kentucky next year, where he has been promised a full scholarship to begin studying for a career in law or actuarial science.

"One of the reasons I like actuarial science is because I like math and statistics," Roettgen said. "I also had the opportunity to go to a special program at Northwestern Mutual and learned about actuarial science there."

Roettgen is on the school's mock trial team, an Eagle Scout and a member of SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions.

He also credits his parents and his older brothers for his academic success.

"I know he has worked hard and is well-balanced in his activities and done what he has to do to do well," said his father, David. "Our kids have all achieved."

Adding to career goals

Klein said she is strongest in math, but finds something she likes in all subjects. She was captain of this year's cross-country team that qualified for state. She also participates in the visual arts and ski teams.

She plans on studying "some sort of science" possibly at Grinnell College in Iowa. She noted that her parents and friends are proud and happy for her.

"Well, we always knew she was a good student and doing well, but we didn't know how well until this came in the mail," said Kevin, Emma's father. "I don't think it's any one thing that is a reason. It's part genetics, a little bit of parent support and good schools. She is in a school that supports what she wants to study."

School pride

Franklin High School officials said the three finalists are a source of pride.

"I know all three of these students through their extracurricular activities," said Sara Unertl, athletics and activities director. "You couldn't find three better examples of well-rounded students."

Principal Mike Nowak said having three finalists in one year indicates not only individual student achievement, but also school success.

"We like to think we have high standards for teaching and instruction where we also strive to improve," Nowak said. "When students achieve at this level, it represents a body of work at the school and district level."

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