Sixteen-year old Jordan Heykoop, a senior at Vilonia High School, was recently named as a semifinalist for the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Heykoop ranks with 16,000 semifinalists in the 58th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $32 million, that will be offered next spring.

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of competition. About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and approximately half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.

More than 1.5 million juniors in nearly 22,000 U.S. high schools entered the 2013 National Merit Program by taking the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool includes the highest scoring entrants in each state.

Counselor Jolene Sanders describes the accomplishment as a "very big deal" not only for Heykoop, but it also reflects well for the Vilonia School District.

"Vilonia hasn’t had one in a few years," Sanders said. "This shows Jordan’s hard work."

A humble Heykoop acknowledges the work leading up to the honor has been challenging. He said he tries to take advantage of all opportunities to further his education as well as volunteers in his community. He takes additional classes, participates in clubs and serves as a youth leader at First Baptist Church in Vilonia.

"That leads me to have to do a lot of work," he added. "If I can, I do."

He also credits Vilonia School District gifted and talented teacher Chere’ Beavers for "investing" in his education when he was in elementary school. She recognized his potential, he said, and provided him an opportunity to advance.

"When I was in the third grade, she did a lot of work on my behalf," Heykoop said. "She did the paperwork with the state Board of Education and I was able to skip fourth grade going right into the fifth. "

Heykoop plans to attend college at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and pursue a career in commercial music. He hopes to write record and publish music. Music has been an intricate part of his life since an early age. He is VHS band member, and he plays his guitar and sings, performing at his church and also at fund raisers for organizations.