By JOSEPH HAMRICK
LONE OAK —
Gaston Luke Gilbert, a senior at Lone Oak High School, is the first student in the school’s history to be a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program.
The National Merit Scholarship Program was established in 1955 in order to recognize the top high school students in America. More than 1.5 million students enter the competition each year.
In order to qualify, a student must receive a high score on the Preliminary SAT (P-SAT) and meet other requirements.
To give perspective, only the top 15,000 of the 1.5 million students are considered finalists.
Gilbert said he is not sure how to put in words how he feels about receiving the prestigious recognition.
“It feels good,” he said. “But it doesn’t make me feel superior in any way.”
LOHS Counselor Leanette Davies said she has not met many students who were more humble than Gilbert.
“He’s very gifted, but it took him a while before he realized how big of a deal it was,” she said.
Gilbert credits his success to a group of people who poured their time, money and energy in helping him succeed.
“The adults that have driven me to succeed are my parents, teachers and my youth minister,” he said. “I can’t give thanks to just one person.”
Gilbert said a teacher who has helped to push him in his studies is his computer science teacher, Wendy Miller.
In addition to being his computer science teacher, Miller is also the coach of the UIL Computer Science team.
“She has driven me to excel in computer science competitions and academics in general,” he said.
Because he is a finalist, Harding University in Arkansas offered him a full ride scholarship to attend the university in the fall.
Miller said she has not taught someone quite like Gilbert in her time teaching at Lone Oak.
“Gaston has been one of the most unique and inspirational students I’ve had,” she said. “He is brilliant but he is also passionate on what he’s doing.”
It is his hunger for knowledge and growing is what separates Gilbert from many students, according to Miller.
“He has a hunger for learning and wants to be challenged,” she said. “He doesn’t want just the easy stuff, he wants to know the most about it.”
Finding out how data structures work and learning to apply them in the world has been a curiosity for Gilbert since his freshman year.
Gilbert said he hopes to use that curiosity to earn a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.
Gilbert wants to use that degree to improve people’s quality of life.
“It is a growing field and I have the ability to help people,” he said.