Sixteen Westport students have been named semifinalists in the 60th annual National Merit Scholarship Program

Semifinalists from Staples High School include: Jake Atlas, Kyle Baer, Shelby Cataldo, Zachary Effman, Claudia Landowne, Emma Lupoff, Abigail Lustig, Nicholas Massoud, Ian Palmer, Kelly Pogue, Megan Root, Everett Sussman and William Vester.

Also, Gabriel Groz and Caleb Shapiro from the Pierrepont School, and Jacob Klegar, a home-schooled student.

Staples Principal John Dodig congratulated the semifinalists in a statement issued by the school: "Because I spend so many hours each week with our students, I know how talented and hard-working they are," he said. "Some of the public, however, needs a metric to judge just how well-prepared are students are. The National Merit Scholarship Program is such a metric.

"Having 13 National Merit semifinalists is a visible sign that we have an outstanding student body. This many students in one class reaching this level of success lets the world know how serious our students are about becoming well-educated."

About 1.4 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. These high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million that will be offered next spring.

To become a finalist, the students and their high school 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 and awards received. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student's earlier performance on the qualifying test.