John “Tommy” Ball, a Waxahachie Global High senior, was informed about his status as a National Merit semifinalist on Wednesday. The good news could not have come at a better time, either.

The week before, Ball received alarming news about his health.

When Ball’s teacher shared his recognition as a semifinalist, his initial reaction was excitement. He then second-guessed the distinction.

“I didn’t realize at the time that semifinalists had the chance of moving on,” Ball explained. “I thought I had qualified for semifinalist and not a finalist in itself. So at first, I was disappointed until I actually realized there was a chance I could still move on.”

Ball shared his preparation for the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test involved focusing on the subjects he struggled with and excising the mindset to continually improve in those areas. His tactic paid off.

However, Ball said he could not prepare for the news he received last week.

“I recently found out I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and I might have ADHD,” he disclosed. “A lot of people at Global don’t know about it yet, and I’m trying to tell more people.”

At first, he was afraid that — if the diagnosis came back positive — he would be a “sobbing wreck. But I actually took the news pretty well. It explained some of the stress in my life and some of the panic I had.”

Asperger's syndrome is a condition on the autism spectrum, with generally higher functioning, according to Mayo Clinic. Males are more commonly diagnosed with the disorder that includes a lack of social skills, high intelligence, and narrow, sometimes obsessive interests.

And, with a quick Google search, anyone connected to the internet can read articles on high school students diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome earning the titles of National Merit Scholar finalist and winner. A few recorded were Athena Brown from Pennsylvania, Roger Diehl from Nashville and Matthew Luebbe from Iowa.

Ball’s post-high school plans include enrolling at Texas A&M University or the University of Oklahoma to obtain a degree in animation and English.

“I want to be a novelist, but the thing is animation is a more stable career, and I want to be an animator before my books can come,” Ball said.

Ball is primarily interested in Christian novels as well as science fiction and short stories.

In the next part of the judging, semifinalists will submit letters of recommendation, write another essay and will be judged on their academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership and honors/awards received.

Outside of the classroom, Ball is heavily involved in his church, the Global Christian Club, yearbook and the National Honors Society. He is an active member of the Cowboy Church of Ennis and does help volunteer with vacation bible school and participates in the annual A Day in the Ring at the Ellis County Youth Expo.

In February 2019, some 15,000 semifinalists will be notified that they have advanced as finalists. Winners of the Merit Scholarship awards are chosen from the finalist group based on their abilities, skills, and accomplishments. The winners are also evaluated on their academic record, letters of recommendation, essay, leadership, test scores, and student involvement.

Beginning in March and continuing to mid-June, National Merit Scholarship Corporation notifies approximately 7,500 finalists.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450