Academic Prowess: Emma Neal, a senior at Salem High School flips through the pages of one of her favorite science fiction books, The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan Sept. 29 inside the Salem High School library. Photo/Jared
Salem High School senior Emma Neal was selected as a Commended Student by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation Sept. 27.
Salem Principal Wayne Guiltner said Neal's selection was based on her Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test scores.
"Emma scored in the 97th percentile on the PSAT," Guiltner said.
Only 50,000 out of the 1.3 million students nationwide who took the exam scored high enough to be considered for the honor, Guiltner said.
Neal was ecstatic about her selection.
"They send those results to the colleges we applied to," Neal said. "Hopefully it will help me get a scholarship for college."
Neal said she has applied to several schools, including Tulane University, a school in Oklahoma City and Washington University in St. Louis.
But she hopes she'll be able to follow her mother and older brother and attend the University of Arkansas.
Neal said she was surprised she did well on the test, but Guiltner said none of her teachers are.
"She's a very hard-working student and her academic achievements are not surprising," Guiltner said.
Neal fell just short of being named a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. Only 16,000 of the 50,000 students selected were given that honor.
Guiltner said 1993 was the last time Salem had a student selected as a semifinalist.
When she gets to college, Neal said, she doesn't know what she will study.
"I've thought about studying International Studies," Neal said. "I'd like to be a diplomat. I'm really into peace and all that stuff."
Architecture and mathematics are two other areas Neal said she would be interested in exploring.
Studying has been a part of Neal's routine since she was a child, she said.
"I made straight A's all the way through," Neal said of her academic career.
One of her favorite classes is college algebra taught by Salem High School teacher Ted Kurly.
"Sometimes he jokes around with me, but he is a good teacher," Neal said of Kurly.
Neal's parents are both teachers at Salem Elementary School. Patricia Neal teaches special education and Jon Neal teaches physical education.
When she's not studying, Neal enjoys playing her trumpet.
"It's brass, it's loud and it's beautiful," Neal said. "You can play good music with it. It has a lot of power."
She said she wants to learn to play the baritone, but Salem Band Director Michael Cole won't let her -- for now.
"He wants me to master the trumpet before I learn a new instrument," Neal said.
In her spare time Neal likes to visit with her friends, play golf, watch television and read books.
Her favorite television show is "ER" but she doesn't want to be a doctor, she said.
Neal's favorite type of books to read are science fiction.
Will she miss Salem High School after she graduates?
"Yeah, I think so," Neal said. "I'll miss having a set schedule. Everything will be different in college."