Alpena seniors semifinalists for National Merit Scholarship awards

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Alpena High School seniors Clayton Donajkowski and Samuel Tuscher were named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists on Sept. 12. They were two of 16,000 semifinalists.

ALPENA — Two Alpena High School seniors are among 16,000 semifinalists in the 6th Annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

On Sept. 12, Clayton Donajkowski and Samuel Tuscher were announced as semifinalists. They have an opportunity to continue in the competition for over 7,500 scholarships worth more than $31 million.

“It’s an honor,” Donajkowski said. “It’s pretty cool, because there’s 16,000 kids in the nation and we’re two of them.”

Donajkowski said he thinks they’re the first two students from Alpena in over 10 years to be semifinalists.

“That’s definitely a cool experience,” he said. “It’s a little intimidating too.”

“It’s kind of weird to be put on a pedestal,” Tuscher said.

The two were excited after Principal Thomas Berriman told them the news.

“I didn’t know if I made the cut or not, so I was a little surprised,” Donajkowski said.

Berriman said it was fun to share the good news with Donajkowski and Tuscher.

“Sometimes you get exciting news like that and to have the ability to be the one that shares it with them and to celebrate with them, it’s a perk of the job,” he said.

Berriman said it’s a big thing for the school to have Donajkowski and Tuscher as semifinalists. He said that, to be two of 16,000 students across the country is a huge honor for them.

“It’s not something that’s happened here frequently, so it’s a big deal,” Berriman said. “It’s cool for those kids and they’re good kids. Anytime we can get attention like this for academic success that’s going on in our building — we know how good our academics are here, but when we have something like this that draws positive attention, it’s good.”

To become a finalist, Donajkowski and Tuscher must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors received.

“We have to write an essay and submit it with extracurricular activities and our SAT scores, as well,” Donajkowski said.

Both Donajkowski and Tuscher are on the Alpena cross country team. Donajkowski also plays basketball and baseball. They’re both planning to attend four-year universities and study math or science.

“We’re both in National Honor Society,” Tuscher said.

“This opens up a whole lot of opportunity for them,” Berriman said. “Anytime that we can help them achieve their goals, achieve their dreams, is a big deal for those kids and good for those type of kids to get that recognition.”

National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at or 989-358-5688.