VALDOSTA -- Adam Courson, 17, was recently named a Commended Student in the 2004 National Merit Scholarship Program. The Valdosta High School senior placed among the top 5 percent of more than 1 million students who entered the 2004 competition by taking the 2002 Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

"It's really cool," said the son of H. Mike and Susan Courson, referring to the national honor. "I was really surprised when I found out that I had won."

Courson, a member of Valdosta High School's Marchin' Cats and a man of few words, was awarded a Letter of Commendation from the school and National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which conducts the program. He hopes the honor will help him realize his dream of becoming a surgeon.

Courson plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall, where he will continue his pursuit of a career in medicine. Currently, he attends Valdosta State University, taking nine hours of coursework. The Beta Club member hopes to complete most of his freshman year of college while completing his senior year in high school.

"(Going to Valdosta State University) gave me the opportunity to finish a lot of college classes before I go away," Courson said.

"It's very possible that I will be close to completing my freshman year before I accept my high school diploma."

Until then, this Commended Student is busy completing college applications, performing in the marching band and maintaining his academic work.

About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation were recognized for their exceptional academic promise. They will not be eligible to continue in the 2004 competition for Merit Scholarship awards. However, National Merit Scholarship Corporation officials hope the recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and push them along the pursuit of scholastic excellence.

"The young people being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding academic potential by their strong performance in this highly competitive program," officials said. "These young people represent a very valuable national resource."

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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