Dale Hoagland, 17, dropped out of high school after her freshman year in order to pursue a self-directed study through home schooling.
REGIONAL NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP SEMIFINALISTS
Scottsboro High School: Andrew Cookston
Dalton High School: Yea Bae
Darlington School: Stephanie Kehl of Rome
Homeschool: Melanie Kehrer of Ringgold, Stephen Wunrow of Rossville
Baylor School: Johnathan Bowes, Junnie Kwon, Ryan Riedmueller, Sydney Rupe, Megan Thompson
Boyd-Buchanan School: Siri Alay
Chattanooga Christian School: Daniel Adams
Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences: Matthew Collum, Sarah Hilling
Cumberland County High School: John Garland of Crossville
Girls Preparatory School: Michelle Bangson, Archer Brock, Danielle Chirumbole, Shelby DeWeese, Laura Higbee, Blair Stewart
Hixson High School: Jason Burford
Homeschool: Briana Wever of Collegedale, Dale Hoagland of Sewanee
McCallie School: Nathan Bird, Noah Olenchek, Mark Taylor, Carter Ward
McMinn County High School: Katherine Edwards, Colin O'Malley of Athens
St. Andrew's-Sewanee School: Marianne Sanders
Source: National Merit Scholarship Corp.
"I didn't want to escape the material being taught, I just wanted to learn it at my own pace, on my own schedule, learning for myself instead of an instructor's approval," Hoagland said.
Within two years she fulfilled state requirements for a high school diploma through correspondence classes from the University of Missouri's Center for Distance and Independent Study, followed by dual enrollment classes at Chattanooga State Community College.
Hoagland is one of four home-schooled students among 31 regional high school seniors named today as 2011 semifinalists in the 56th National Merit Scholarship Program.
Gary Hargraves, area coordinator for Tennessee Home Education Association, said it is the largest number of home-school honorees to ever reach semifinalist status in one year.
Girls Preparatory School led the area with six honorees from its senior class of 83 girls.
"We are very proud of our girls who achieved this incredible level of excellence, and I am equally proud that in a time of an acceptance of mediocrity, GPS seeks the best from all our girls," said GPS Headmaster Randy Tucker.
Students begin the National Merit Scholarship process by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test during their junior year. The scholarship corporation says 1.5 million juniors took the test in 2009.
Of those, 16,000 students scored high enough to qualify as semifinalists - less than 1 percent of all U.S. high school seniors, according to program officials.
Katie Williamsen, National Merit Scholarship Corp. public information coordinator, said 346 home-school students were among the 16,000.
"There has been an upward trend in the number of home-school semifinalists nationwide since 2000," she said. "The number of home-school students in 2008 was 241; in 2010, there were 362 home-school students."
Hixson High School semifinalist Jason Burford said his mother, Marlene Brannon's reaction was "Yes! Scholarships!" when he broke the news.
He said he plans to major in chemistry and study pharmacology at Vanderbilt University.
Burford and all semifinalists are now eligible to compete for $36 million in National Merit Scholarships, which will be awarded in the spring.