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Homeschooler named National Merit finalist

Oak Harbor resident Katherine Jones is flying high. In addition to graduating as a homeschool student, she received a full ride scholarship to Arizona State University where she plans to study civil engineering. On top of all that she is also a pilot.

As she finished her last year of high school studies, Jones earned an important distinction. She was a National Merit Finalist — the first such scholar to come out of Homeschoolers on Whidbey, a volunteer group that supports parents who teach their children at home.

The National Merit Scholarship program recognizes high school students at the national level. Jones first came to the attention of the program when she took her PSAT and her test scores were in the top one percent. Jones was one of 15,000 in the nation to be selected as a finalist.

Jones has been home schooled since she was a third grader. Back then, she and her parents were living in Kansas. Her parents, Mike and Karen, were moving out of their military careers and were unsure of their next step.

Katherine said homeschooling provided consistency at a time when she was moving. She’s been living on Whidbey Island for nine years.

The Jones family would talk about whether Katherine to remain in homeschooling or head into a traditional school after each school year.

Katherine said she opted to remain as a homeschool student because of the opportunities it provided.

Because of the flexible program the homeschooling offered, she was able to earn her pilot’s license last October as she turned 17.

“It’s kind of like music ... It opens up a different part of your life,” Katherine said.

She also plays guitar on the worship team at First Reformed Church in Oak Harbor. In addition to her music she has helped with vacation Bible school and a variety of functions at the church throughout the year.

She also participated in the Running Start program and took classes at Skagit Valley College.

She decided to pursue civil engineering because it closely mirrors her interests.

“I like math. I like science and I’ve alway liked building things,” Katherine said. She added that if she becomes a civil engineer she won’t be stuck in an office all day.

She’s been accepted to the Honor’s College at ASU. She’ll be driving down to school with her mother Thursday as school begins later this month.

Even though she’s settled on a major, she hasn’t decided on a career. Katherine is debating whether to go into the military or perhaps opt for medical school.

One thing is certain. She still wants to fly and hopes to join a flying club after her move to Arizona.

Homeschoolers on Whidbey is run by parents who meet monthly, and it supports students by organizing guest speakers and field trips and offering discounts on standardized testing services.

Erin Clark, spokesperson for Homeschoolers on Whidbey, said the organization has approximately 80 families as members but didn’t know how many children that encompasses. She added that numbers fluctuate from year to year largely because of Navy families who go through the program.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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