CLEMSON, South Carolina — Clemson University selected eight students for the 2017 National Scholars Program, the university’s most selective academic merit program.

The eight are an extraordinarily gifted group. Beyond the remarkable academic records they present — an average SAT of more than 1530 and high school class rank in the top 1 percent — these Scholars are a diverse and talented group of researchers, musicians, athletes and community servants.

The eight new National Scholars are:

Ethan Bensman, Walnut Hills High School, Cincinnati, Ohio
In high school, Bensman served as a local business outreach director for Walnut Hills Community Action Team, as well as an event coordinator for Students Together Assisting Refugees. He’s a seasonal staff writer for Fansided Network’s Cincinnati Bengals website, as well as a two-year varsity soccer player at his school. He is a National Merit Finalist, a National AP Scholar and is graduating valedictorian at Walnut Hills High School. He is the son of Jeff and Cyndi Bensman and spent his last summer interning as a particle physics researcher and data analyst at the University of Cincinnati for the CERN particle accelerator’s LHCb experiment. He hopes to continue with similar research opportunities at Clemson, where he plans to major in physics.

Jackson Dugger, Highland Park High School, Dallas, Texas
Dugger is a multiyear letterman in both football and baseball. He is a National Merit Finalist, AP Scholar with Distinction, Foot Locker Scholar Athlete, Academic All-State First Team Football student athlete and Magna Cum Laude graduate of Highland Park’s “Distinguished” graduation program. He was named both the Outstanding AP Calculus and AP Statistics Student of the Year. Dugger served his school in a variety of leadership roles, including as Student Ambassador, Fish Camp Counselor and four-year member of the Community Service Council. He is a four-time recipient of Highland Park High School’s Presidential Service Award and two-time recipient of The President’s Volunteer Service Award. He is the son of Ashley and Keith Dugger and plans to pursue a major in sports communication with a minor in mathematical sciences. 

Breauna Franklin, South Fayette Township High School, McDonald, Pennsylvania
Franklin has been an active member of her varsity swim team and has served as captain for the past two years. She is also involved in Teen Institute, a mentoring program aiming to facilitate healthy discourse with middle school students. The past few summers, she has interned for the Opportunity Education Foundation creating an app to be distributed in pilot schools around the globe as well as the HerLead Conference. She has participated in a study-abroad program in Chile and the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop, a journalism course that has enabled her to publish articles on a variety of issues in the Pittsburgh area. Franklin is the daughter of Tammy and Norman Franklin and is planning to study language and international health with a concentration in Spanish.

Margo Marie McManus, Pendleton High School, Anderson
McManus is a member of National Art Honor Society, the National Society of High School Scholars, National Technical Honor Society, National Honor Society and BETA Club; and her school’s Chromebook Tech Team, Poetry Club and Photography Club. McManus also worked with teachers to found a literary and visual arts journal through her junior and senior years and co-founded Poetry and Photography Club in 10th grade. She has served as Poet Laureate for Poetry Club for three years, helping students share and publish their poetry, and has herself been published 17 times. She is the recipient of the AP Scholar with Honor Award, the 2016 Star Student Award in English and Power Poetry’s “I Am…” Poetry Slam scholarship, and won second place in both the 2016 South Carolina Art Education Association Western Region Youth Art Month and the Spring 2015 Clemson Summer Scholar Computer Science Contest. The daughter of Gwendolyn and Thomas McManus, she has maintained A Honor Roll her entire school career and plans to major in accounting and economics with a minor in finance.

Nathan Matzko, Homeschool, Irmo
Matzko is an avid blues guitarist and has performed in many different venues throughout his high school career. After interning for Lexington Medical Center the summer before his senior year, Matzko is writing his first oncological case report to be submitted for publication at a later date. Since ninth grade, he has tutored students in a variety of subjects ranging from AP Calculus to English. He is both a National Merit Finalist and an AP Scholar with Honor. He is the son of Eric and Katie Matzko and plans to major in biochemistry.

Jacob Sargent, South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, Hartsville
Sargent served as Student Council president during his senior year at the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. He was the recipient of the Gold Award on the National German Exam and studied German language in Kulmbach, Germany, between his sophomore and junior years. He researched computer science for six weeks in Kaiserslautern, Germany, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering. Additionally, he played varsity soccer as a goalkeeper and defender throughout high school. Sargent is the son of Thomas Sargent and Heather Sargent and plans to pursue a language and international trade major with a German concentration, along with a minor in another foreign language.

Claudia Wong, West Anchorage High School, Anchorage, Alaska
Wong was captain of the varsity riflery team and the orchestra’s first chair violist at West High School, where she completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Last summer, she was elected lieutenant governor at Alaska Girls State and served as director of youth outreach for the successful 2016 reelection campaign of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Wong volunteered in her community as vice president of the Downtown Rotary Interact Club and as member of the West IB Garden Project that grows vegetables for Beans Cafe. She is fluent in Spanish and spent a summer living with a host family in a small, rural community in Paraguay, where she did volunteer work and immersed herself in the community and its culture. At Clemson, Wong will pursue a major in bioengineering and plans to become an orthodontist. She has job-shadowed various orthodontists and dentists and has volunteered at several free dental care clinics. She is the daughter of Silas and Sofia Wong.

Sylvia Wu, Concordia International School Shanghai, Shanghai, China
Growing up in the Midwest, Wu joins Clemson after living abroad in Shanghai, China, for five years. She ran four years of cross-country, serving as co-captain for both the cross-country and track teams. Leading the school’s National Honor Society chapter, she created a program that saw students designing and proposing their own service projects. She was also the editor-in-chief of her high school yearbook. An avid baker, she provided countless school functions with endless supplies of desserts. A National Merit Finalist and an AP Scholar with Distinction, she looks forward to continued academic exploration and excellence at Clemson, planning to pursue majors in philosophy and computer science. Wu is the daughter of Ran Wu and Runnong Huan, both former graduate students at Clemson.

Clemson’s  National Scholars receive four-year merit scholarships that cover tuition and fees, an allowance for room and board and a summer group study-abroad experience after freshman year, as well as a range of intellectual enrichment opportunities and dedicated mentoring.

The scholars were chosen through a rigorous selection process. Out of more than 1,700 applicants to the Calhoun Honors College, 35 were invited to compete in March on campus through a series of interviews, small group discussions and a large group decision-making simulation.

“In addition to excelling in the classroom, these students exhibit the characteristic traits of National Scholars: depth and breadth in their interests, experiences, extracurricular activities and leadership roles, as well as a sense of intellectual curiosity that surpasses the classroom,” said Sarah Winslow, director of the National Scholars Program and associate professor of sociology. “We are honored that they have chosen to join us in the fall.”