Mary Kasl, Erica Raphael named National Merit semifinalists

FLHS seniors Mary Kasl and Erica Raphael.

Two Forest Lake High School seniors are among 16,000 semifinalists in the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Mary Margaret Kasl is the daughter of Craig and Mary Beth Kasl of Linwood. Erica Raphael is the daughter of Rob and Kim Raphael of Scandia.

The students learned of the result on Thursday, Sept. 13, while at school.

Mary Margaret Kasl

Mary attended St. Peter’s Elementary School.

She was homeschooled for grades 7, 8, and 9, supplemented by ARCHES tutorial-based classes.

ARCHES, or Aquinas Roman Catholic Home Education Services, is a non-profit organization that provides classes to students in grades 7 through 12 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lino Lakes.

Mary plans to study biomedical science and is now in the process of applying to four-year colleges.

Mary took advantage of the college-level courses offered at Forest Lake.  She took honors chemistry as a sophomore and Advanced Placement (AP) biology as a junior.  Now a senior, she is in AP calculus.

Next quarter she will take introduction to health care, which teaches first aid and CPR, and prepares students for the certified nurse assistant test.

“I am very appreciative of all my teachers, especially in math, science, and music,” Mary said.

Mary is very active at the Church of Saint Paul in Ham Lake, where she participates in peer ministry and mission trips.

She is part of the youth team that helps prepare confirmation students, and she leads a ministry in which young girls participate in processionals on Holy Days.

She is also involved in NET Ministries, an  evangelical group.

At school Mary is a member of the National Honor Society.

She plays the flute and piccolo in symphonic winds and sang in the talent show.

And she was recently elected president of Tri-M, the new musical honor society whose goal is to get people more involved in the high school music program.

“The department is growing, and we’d like to have the community more involved,” she said.

One idea the group is considering is an “elementary instrument petting zoo,” where young children are encouraged to try out different instruments.

Mary took the PSAT prep class the school offers, and she recommends it to others.  “It has good materials,” she said.

This October she will take the SAT.

Erica Raphael

Erica attended Scandia Elementary School.

After high school Erica plans to go into biomedical research. She hopes to attend college in Chicago, New York, or Washington, DC.

Erica has made good use of the college-level classes offered in Forest Lake.

This year she is in AP calculus, College in the Schools (CS) introduction to literature, Chinese I, CS political science, and AP biology.

Last year she took AP chemistry.

Next semester she will be in French V.

Erica also experienced international travel, in Italy and Greece, through a school program with EF Tours.

How does she feel about her teachers? “I’ve loved almost every single teacher I’ve had, ever,” Erica said.

Outside of school, Erica is a member of Youth Performing Arts, which will present “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” this winter.

She volunteers at the Family Pathways food shelf.

In school, her extracurricular activities have included National Honor Society and student council.  In the jazz band she played piano, and she also plays tenor sax.  She sings in the choir in the high school musical this year.

The activity she praises most highly is drum line.

“I recommend it to everyone,” she said. “It is open to anyone, piano training or not.”

Erica has been in drum line since seventh grade.

Erica did not take the PSAT prep class offered at the high school.

She already took the SAT.  On the Math Level 2 subject test, she said, she scored 790 out of a possible 800.

Erica’s father, Rob Rapheal, is president of the Forest Lake school board.


Semifinalists will compete next spring for over 8,000 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million.

About 90 percent of semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will become Merit Scholars, winning National Merit Scholarships.

The 2013 program included 1.5 million juniors from 22,000 high schools who took the 2011 Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

The semifinalists represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors and include the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

To become a finalist, the semifinalist and the high school must submit a detailed scholarship application with academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, and honors and awards received.

A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed by a high school official, write an essay, and earn high SAT scores.

Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies.

Three types of scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2013.

Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2500 Scholarships awarded on a state representational basis.

About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their criteria, such as children of employees or local residents.

In addition, 200 colleges and universities are expected to finance 4,800 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for students attending those schools.