National Merit Scholarship Program

Class of 2014



The National Merit Foundation has recognized five students from the University School of Jackson’s Class of 2014.

They are Ben Coffman and Govind Bindra, National Merit Scholarship finalists; Aisha Suara, a National Achievement Scholarship finalist; and Jennifer Caterina and Marisa Mariencheck, National Merit Commended Students.

Ben, the son of Steve and Jean Coffman, plans to study engineering. His top college choices are Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana; University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology, both in Rochester, New York; and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York.

Govind, the son of Gurpal and Ravinder Bindra, would like to study pre-med at Washington University in St. Louis or Stanford in California.

Aisha, the daughter of R.O. and Zulfat Suara, would like to major in chemistry or neuroscience at Princeton University, New Jersey, or the University of Rochester.

Jennifer, the daughter of John and Nancy Caterina, would like to study theater at Rockford University, Illinois; Marymount Manhattan College, New York City; or Baldwin Wallace, Berea, Ohio.

Marisa, the daughter of Bill and Maria Mariencheck, wants to double major in music and biology. Her top college choices are Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana; St. Louis University; and Washington University.

The students earned this recognition because of the scores they made on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during their junior year. Of 1.5 million college-bound juniors taking the test, only 16,000 were named Semifinalists and 34,000 were named Commended Students.

Semifinalists Ben and Govind will find out this spring if they are named Finalists and then have the opportunity to compete for National Merit Scholarships. The National Achievement Scholarship Program is an academic competition established in 1964 to provide recognition for outstanding African-American high school students.

Class of 2013



The National Merit Foundation has recognized three students from the University School of Jackson’s Class of 2013.

They are Akua Nuako, a semifinalist for the National Merit Scholarship Competition and National Achievement Scholarship Competition; John Villarreal, who was honored as a National Merit Commended Student and in the National Hispanic Recognition Program; and Philip Griggs, who was a National Achievement Program Outstanding Participant.

Akua, a USJ student for five years, is the daughter of Kofi Nuako and Joyce Addo. She hasn’t chosen a college yet, but plans to major in biomedical engineering.

John plans to attend Union University and study engineering. A USJ student since pre-kindergarten, he is the son of David and Kim Villarreal.

Philip is the son of Rickey and Yolanda Griggs. He has not chosen a college yet, but plans to major in biology or pre-med. He has been a USJ student for four years.

Class of 2012

From left, Ashley Nkadi, Habeeb Suara, Carrie Cobb, Sarathi Sarkar, Mina James-Gist

The National Merit Foundation has recognized five members of University School of Jackson’s Class of 2012.

They are Carrie Cobb and Sarathi Sarkar, who are National Merit Commended students; Habeeb Suara and Mina James-Gist, National Achievement Finalists; and Ashley Nkadi, who was recognized as a National Achievement Outstanding Participant.

Sarathi, a USJ student since pre-kindergarten, is the son of Anamika and Dr. Shyamal Sarkar. Sarathi would like to major in mechanical engineering at Carnegie-Mellon.

Carrie, a member of USJ’s 2010 state champion soccer team, wants to attend Rhodes, continue to play soccer, and major in biology. A USJ student since pre-kindergarten, she is the daughter of Teresa Cobb and Lewis Cobb.

Mina, the daughter of Alice James and Andre Gist, has attended USJ most of her life. She would like to major in biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan.

Habeeb, the son of Zulfat and Rahaman Suara, transferred to USJ in 10th grade. He would like to major in biomedical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Tecnology, the University of Pennsylvania, or Vanderbilt University.

Ashley also transferred to USJ as a sophomore. The daughter of Michelle and Emeke Nkadi, Ashley would like to major in biology at the University of Cincinnati or the University of Chicago.

Students recognized by the National Merit program represent the top percentage of students who entered the 2012 competition by taking the 2010 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Class of 2011

Pictured, from left, are Jade James-Gist, Evan Baker, Halle Priester, and Kwame Nuako.

The National Merit Foundation has recognized four members of USJ’s Class of 2011.

They are Kwame Nuako, a National Merit Commended student and Finalist in the National Achievement Scholarship Competition for minority American high school students; Evan Baker and Halle Priester, who are both National Merit Commended students; and Jade James-Gist, a National Achievement Scholarship Finalist.

Kwame, the son of Kofi Nuako and Joyce Addo, hopes to study the biomedical sciences in college. His top colleges include Vanderbilt, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Evan is the son of John and Karen Baker. He plans to major in electrical engineering in college. His top colleges include Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech.

Halle, the daughter of Brad and Joanna Priester, includes Rhodes, Samford, and Vanderbilt among her top college choices. She is considering a career in pharmacy or medical research.

Jade, the daughter of Andre Gist and Alice James, would like to study anthropology. Her college choices include the University of Michigan and the University of California at Los Angeles.

More than 1.5 million juniors entered the 2011 competition by taking the 2009 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Commended Students place among the top five percent of those who took the PSAT.