Two Yukon seniors named scholarship semifinalists

Two Yukon High School seniors are among more than 16,000 semifinalists for the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Tien Tran and Brandon Cacini-Tate are the first National Merit semifinalists in several years, said Yukon High School Principal Melissa Barlow.

“It’s been four or five years since we’ve had a semifinalist, so this is huge,” she said.

Tran is the daughter of Phuong Doan and Steve Tran. Cacini-Tate is the son of Theresa Cacini and Christopher Tate.

Both have attended Yukon schools throughout their academic career.

“They are awesome kids and are super smart. They are very deserving of this honor,” Barlow said. “For these kids to be noted for their accomplishments is huge.”

Tran scored a 1,470 on her PSAT while Cacini-Tate scored a 1,480. The highest score possible is a 1,520.

Both said they were notified of their honor by the University of Oklahoma.

“I knew that I had a good score, but was still surprised that I was in the top .5 percent,” said Tran.

Tran said she hasn’t decided where she will go to school after graduation, though she is leaning toward OU because of the school’s reputation with National Merit scholars.

She plans to study chemistry and art.

Barlow said Tran also is a gifted artist.

Tran said her goal is to become a pediatric dentist.

She said accomplishing her goal has been tough. She studies an average of four hours per night on top of some outside activities that include martial arts practice and piano lessons.

“I have to study a lot,” she said.

Tran said she scored a 1,510 in June on her SAT. She also scored a 35 on her ACT.

Meanwhile, Cacini-Tate said he was surprised when got the notification.

“I knew I was close in my previous years,” he said.

He scored a 1,400 as a sophomore.

Cacini-Tate said he is leaning toward the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University for his post-high school education.

He plans to study engineering.

While Tran said she spends hours each night studying, Cacini-Tate said his memory helps him.

“I have a good memory, so I don’t have to work that hard,” he said.

Cacini-Tate goes to Yukon High School half a day. The other half is spent at Canadian Valley Technology Center, where he is taking courses geared to his engineering plans.

He also is a member of the Yukon High School band, where he plays the bassoon during concert season and is with the “pit” during marching season.

Cacini-Tate said he is scheduled to take the SAT next week.

According to the National Merit scholarship website, the 16,000 students who were named semifinalists represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. They are the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

The academically talented seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for about 7,500 National Merit scholarships, worth about $32 million that will be offered next spring.

The winners are expected to be notified in February.

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