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Free park admission, National Merit scholars and a weekend meal program for primary students

West Linn High School students named semifinalists for National Merit Scholarship

Seven West Linn High School students were named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists last week. The students join roughly 16,000 students across the nation who earned the highest scores on the PSAT. Just 1% of students who took the PSAT were named semifinalists.

In February, semifinalists who earn comparable scores on the SAT or ACT and meet academic performance requirements will continue as finalists. Close to half of those finalists, or approximately 7,500 students, will be awarded scholarships of varying amounts.

The WLHS students who qualified as semifinalists are Nathaniel Adam, Natalie Cha, Gregory Daswick, Haydn Maust, James Nicholson, Katarina Pejcinovic, and Jason Von Ahn.

Twelve more students received National Merit Scholarship Commendation, which is awarded to 50,000 students nationally. Kyle Bezio, Elijah Cirioli, Casey Culbertson, Christopher Dunstan, Gabrielle Garcia, Maggie Metcalf, Samuel Montagut, Bella Royer, Sabrina Smith, Ethan Sovde, Isaiah Woram, and Zyla Zody received the commendation.

Fourth graders eligible for free national park admission

Through the "Every Kid Outdoors" initiative, all fourth graders are eligible for a free one-year pass to all federal parks, forests, and recreation areas. By visiting everykidoutdoors.gov, current fourth graders can print a paper voucher that provides free access for themselves, any kids with them under the age of 16, and up to three adults.

The pass covers admission or day use fees, but some parks charge parking fees or have other policies. In Oregon, the Every Kid Outdoors pass can be used at Crater Lake, the John Day Fossil Beds, Mt. Hood National Forest, Deschutes National Forest, and many more locations.

"Research shows that children ages 9-11 are at a unique developmental stage in their learning where they begin to understand how the world around them works in more concrete ways," a press release from the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region explained. "By targeting fourth graders, the program works to ensure every child in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit and enjoy their public lands by the time he or she is 11 years old."

Home Plate program offers weekend meal packs to West Linn elementary students

The West Linn Food Pantry is continuing the Home Plate program this year to provide children with meals to keep them well-fed over the weekend. Staff at six elementary schools distribute brown bags filled with meals and snacks to students on the last day of each school week. Last year, 65 students participated in the program, meaning the program distributed well over 2,000 bags. Staff at each school, typically the school counselor, coordinate the program for students.

Phil Rees runs the Home Plate program out of the West Linn Food Pantry. "My involvement is to get the numbers, fill the bags, and get them to the schools," Rees said. The bags are filled with easy-to-prepare foods like peanut butter and jelly, snack bars, oatmeal, popcorn, and cans of soup.

Rees started the program at Willamette Primary School. "It was a success there and so we took it to the other schools and introduced it," Rees said. "It's just a program that I thought needed to be done, so we kicked it off," Rees explained.

Funding for the Home Plate program is separate from the funding for the rest of the food pantry's work. "It's me personally that's out beating the bushes to keep it going," Rees said. The West Linn Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the program. With the bags costing around $3.50 each, the program expenses totalled around $8,000 last year.


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